Back in the day when 4G LTE was in the early stages of being rolled out, there was some confusion over whether or not your phone supported it. This is no thanks to carriers who in their attempt to market their technology, used the 4G term to describe upgraded/enhanced versions of 3G.
It looks like similar confusion could be starting up once again with 5G, as AT&T has confirmed to FierceWireless that they will be upgrading existing LTE-enabled handsets to “5G E”, and where these phones will start displaying that indicator instead of “LTE”. Like we said, some might be confused by this labeling as while it says “5G”, in reality AT&T’s 5G Evolution is just an advanced version of LTE network technology.
AT&T had begun rolling out more coverage of its 5G Evolution earlier this year which took advantage of network technologies like carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, LAA and 256 QAM. AT&T has argued that these technologies pave the way for eventual 5G services, but like we said, unless you’re actually in the know and are aware of the distinction between 5G and AT&T’s 5G E, we wouldn’t be surprised if people started to get the impression that they’re now on a “real” 5G network.
That being said, actual 5G is expected to begin rolling out in 2019 and you will need a new device that supports it. So far the major carriers have all announced that they are working with Samsung on a 5G handset, while other handset makers have also announced their plans for 5G smartphones. Apple on the other hand is expected to sit this one out until 2020.