The cellular industry is expected to transition to 5G over the coming years, with these mobile speed upgrades occurring every decade or so. AT&T is getting an early start by labeling existing LTE Android phones in certain markets with a “5G E” indicator.
5G Evolution is effectively AT&T’s branding for LTE Advanced, which is a separate upgrade to the existing LTE standard. While offering a 2x performance improvement to the existing network, other carriers are just upgrading their services to take advantage of the new speeds.
AT&T confirmed to Fierce Wireless and noted the change on its 5G page today that supported Android devices in certain markets with higher speeds will see “5G E” instead of LTE. This change will begin in early 2019 on AT&T’s “most popular smartphones,” with wider availability in spring 2019.
In the meantime, over 400 markets will benefit from the new coverage by the end of this year. Supported 5G Evolution devices today include the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9, LG V30 and V35, and Motorola Z2 Force.
AT&T has received a lot of flack from other carriers — notably T-Mobile and Sprint — in the U.S., and even abroad. LTE Advanced features 4×4 MIMO to double the number of antennas that can send data back and forth, while 256 QAM makes data transmission more efficient.
During the transition to LTE, the American carrier refered to HSPA+ as 4G, with devices like the iPhone 4S updating their network indicators to note this change.