A smartphone with AT&T's

Enlarge / A smartphone with AT&T’s “5G E” network indicator. (credit: AT&T)

An AT&T executive defended the company’s rebranding of 4G phones as “5G E,” saying that the name change has helped AT&T “br[eak] our industry’s narrative” and get inside of its “competitors’ heads.”

Speaking at CES yesterday, AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said AT&T is changing the 4G network indicator on smartphones to 5G E because “we felt like we had to give [customers] an indicator that said your speed now is twice what it was with traditional 4G LTE.”

AT&T’s 5G E stands for 5G Evolution, but it’s just 4G LTE. AT&T says that 5G E is different from its normal 4G network because it uses 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation. But those technologies are part of the years-old LTE-Advanced standard, and are already used by Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint on their 4G networks.

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