MWC 2019: AT&T says customers love 5GE

AT&T has said it is important for customers to know via 5GE messaging when they are in a faster zone.

AT&T is standing by its 5GE branding, saying that it is right to communicate to customers when they are in a faster zone.

Speaking during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 in Barcelona, AT&T Business CEO Thaddeus Arroyo told ZDNet that 5GE is distinct from the carrier's 5G service.

"I think if you look at 5GE, and this is the evolution platform that we've created and then that will become the foundation upon which we build 5G, these are two separate platforms," Arroyo said.

"So what's important for us is when a customer is in a 5GE environment, which ultimately provides them access to faster speeds when they have the right device. When they have the right network, we want them to know they're in an environment that's going to perform better. That's really the nature of it, but they're two distinct, separate platforms.

"Customers love it. Customers want faster speeds."

AT&T's 5GE messaging lets customers know when their compatible device is in a 5G Evolution area, providing speeds and coverage that all other carriers are calling LTE Advanced.

The 5GE branding caused an uproar among its rival carriers, with Sprint even filing a lawsuit earlier this month claiming that it is false and misleading, and is causing Sprint to lose revenue.

Read also: Did AT&T trick your business into paying for fake 5G? Sprint lawsuit says yes (TechRepublic)

T-Mobile -- which plans to merge with Sprint this year -- likewise mocked AT&T's 5GE branding last month, while Verizon CTO Kyle Malady criticised the move.

AT&T announced its 5G network going live in mid-December in parts of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Waco, Atlanta, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Raleigh. In the first half of 2019, it will also be switched on across Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Nashville, as well as in Chicago and Minneapolis.

Arroyo said AT&T is working with Samsung, Nokia, and Ericsson on providing the tech behind its 5G deployments.

Read more: AT&T 5G: Behind the scenes in Texas as the new mobile network goes live

CTO Andre Fuetsch this week told ZDNet that AT&T will be bringing Samsung's 5G smartphones onto the network later this year, as well as its existing home broadband Nighthawk router.

Neither Fuetsch nor Arroyo commented on whether they would offer Chinese 5G smartphones including Huawei's foldable Mate X, Oppo's 5G phone, ZTE's Axon 10, and Xiaomi's Mi Mix 3, or even Korean company LG's 5G V50 smartphone.

The chief technology officer also spoke on how the 5G Massive MIMO antennas could actually open up new enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities thanks to more precise location data.

"What's really unique about that technology that we'll be deploying is it has characteristics such as beamforming, which allows us ... [to] send a stream directly to your device," Fuetsch said.

"It actually allows you to know exactly where that device is, and so now you've just kind of opened up this whole new world of very precise location, and that's something we've never been able to do before.

"GPS is good for tens of metres of accuracy; now think of having centimetre accuracy. And we believe that really getting that kind of granular view of where things are in the environment, and couple that with AI, machine-learning technology, call it big data, all of a sudden new and interesting applications are going to come from this."

AT&T IoT head Chris Penrose told ZDNet that the most popular smart cities use cases so far have been for lighting, water, transportation, infrastructure, and public safety.

The carrier's IoT networks are laying the foundation now for regular IoT, while 5G will then lead to the explosion of what he called massive IoT.

"We've deployed our LTE-M network nationwide in the United States last year, we will be deploying narrowband-IoT across the United States by April this year, and we're bringing narrowband-IoT dwon to Mexico by the end of this year," Penrose said.

"And so what that is really allowing us to do is create a set of great low-power wide-area options where we can begin to connect all these things."

MWC 2019 Coverage