Logo for 5Ge is superimposed over lush forest landscape.

Enlarge / Screenshot from an AT&T commercial. (credit: AT&T)

AT&T has reluctantly agreed to stop using the phrase “5G Evolution” to describe its 4G service in advertising but will apparently continue to use the misleading “5GE” icon as the network indicator on phone screens even when there’s no 5G service.

AT&T’s so-called 5G Evolution service is in reality just 4G with advanced LTE features like 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation. AT&T has faced widespread ridicule since putting the 5GE network icon on 4G phones more than a year ago, but the icons have likely convinced many AT&T customers that they have 5G service when they really don’t. The other major carriers also deployed LTE-Advanced features but continued to accurately describe the service as 4G.

T-Mobile last year challenged AT&T’s 5GE campaign with the National Advertising Division (NAD), which serves as the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body, and the NAD subsequently ruled that AT&T should discontinue the 5G Evolution claims. AT&T appealed that decision, claiming that its ads “served to educate customers about the billions of dollars AT&T has invested to give customers an outstanding experience,” but the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) rejected the carrier’s appeal.

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