What is 5Ge? And Why Is It On My iPhone?

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Oh look - a new carrier indicator from AT&T that suggests that I’m receiving 5G to my iPhone! How cool is that! Boom!

Well, not really. It’s actually not true. Let’s break this lie down a bit.

5G refers to the “5th Generation” wireless communication standard which will offer theoretical speeds up to 1gbs - extremely fast, especially considering 4G LTE service offers around 30mbps (30 megabytes a second as compared to 1,000 megabytes a second).

The problem is that 5G is going to take a whole different set of hardware to transmit and receive 5G signals. That’s going to take a lot of time and capital investment by carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. 5G is supposed to roll-out nation-wide over the next couple of years. But it’s not here. Not yet.

So why am I being lied to? AT&T Senior VP for Wireless Technology Igal Elbaz defended AT&T’s 5Ge practices by arguing “what we’re trying to do is let [consumers] know that there is an enhanced experience in their market.” And yeah, they’re getting sued by the other carriers who say AT&T is misleading consumers .

You see, even though my iPhone says that I’m operating on a 5G network (E is AT&T marketing lingo for “Evolution”, it’s not even part of the 5G standard), it’s really not. Bummer-drag. It’s still on that 4G LTE network but using a mechanism to aggregate carrier signals (4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM) that offer a wee bit of a speed improvement (AT&T says an average of 40mbps with theoretical speeds up to 400mbps) but it’s not 5G, per se.

The 5Ge thing appeared on my iPhone XS after receiving the iOS 12.2 update, but it’s not really 5G. Have AT&T? If you have an older iPhone, or an iPhone XR, or older Android phone, you may not see the 5Ge indicator. That’s because those phones don’t support the signal aggregation thing I was just talking about. Also, you may not be in a market that AT&T has brought this whoopla to; AT&T seems to think they can roll this tech out to 400 markets by 2020.

So, sorry to swot your hopes like that but, hey, just keeping it real.