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Snake oil in 2017: AT&T does it with 5G

How do you sell mobile plans based on a technology before the body responsible for the standards governing that technology has even begun drafting them? If you are AT&T you simply craft a name — like 5G Evolution — make a few nebulous claims, and sit back and watch the suckers swallow the BS.

Need some help in getting the wording organised? The Web economy BS generator is a source par excellence.

In its media release about this wonderful new technology, AT&T claims that, "Our 5G Evolution offers infinite possibilities and allows you to take faster Internet speeds with you on the go.

"In Austin, that means it offers twice the speeds of our 4G LTE network, and can be accessed by customers on almost all AT&T data plans with a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ device."

Of course, it is possible that, given all the caveats that AT&T lists, it may be indeed to experience speeds higher than those available on 4G LTE.

But when AT&T says, "We continue to lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G while the 5G standards are being finalised", that is pure unadulterated BS.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance has defined the following requirements that should be fulfilled by a 5G standard:

  • Data rates of tens of megabits per second for tens of thousands of users
  • Data rates of 100 megabits per second for metropolitan areas
  • 1GBps simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor
  • Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors
  • Spectral efficiency significantly enhanced compared to 4G
  • Coverage improved
  • Signalling efficiency enhanced
  • Latency reduced significantly compared to LTE.

Does AT&T's 5G Evolution satisfy all these requirements? The short answer is no. But when did fantasy ever get in the way of marketing?

AT&T is itself a member of the Alliance. But that has not in any way prevented it from using the term to market something that is significantly inferior as 5G.

It is thus fitting that the man quoted by AT&T to push this brand of snake oil is the chief marketing officer of its entertainment group, David Christopher.

He doesn't hold back, does our Chris. “Our 5G Evolution in Austin gives our customers a taste of the future. With 5G Evolution from AT&T you don’t have to wait to experience endless entertainment possibilities on the next generation network when you have the latest devices."

Customers will, of course, be taken in. Next will be Indianapolis, followed by Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco and others.

Plenty of suckers to be hooked in all those cities.

The gates of hell have been opened: what one telco can do, another can do better.

Here, free of any cost, are some terms that the other big US telcos can use:

  • 5G Exccel (two Cs will add to the mystery);
  • 5G Supreme (sounds like a pizza, delicious)
  • 5G Laser (sounds fast, that does)
  • 5G Next Generation (that's the best of the lot)
  • And finally, 5G Bolt (get the hint?).


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.