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Sprint President: AT&T is not rolling out real 5G

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Sprint President of Business Jan Geldmacher had some choice words for AT&T (T), which has come under fire for its “5G E” marketing strategy.

“They [AT&T] call it 5G, but we believe it’s not 5G,” Geldmacher told Yahoo Finance during an interview at CES 2019 in Las Vegas this week. “We roll out the real 5G. It’s based on our 2.5 gigahertz spectrum. It’s based on our massive mine of technology, and it’s compliant with the 5G [rules], which we have agreed to.”

AT&T came under fire last week from competitors after the carrier started updating some Samsung and LG smartphones with a "5G E" icon — a move indicating to users that they could start seeing increased 5G connectivity speeds. In reality however, those devices are still running on AT&T’s current 4G networks, albeit with some technology improvements.

Geldmacher’s comments arrive a few days after Sprint’s (S) CTO Dr. John Saw expressed similar sentiments to Engadget, a sister site to Yahoo Finance also owned by Verizon Media Group. T-Mobile, meanwhile, opted to mock AT&T's decision on social media, releasing a video updating an iPhone to "9G" by attaching a piece of a sticky note over the visible LTE connectivity icon.

As part of its larger 5G strategy, Sprint also confirmed this week at CES it plans on launching the first 5G-enabled smartphone, a device from LG, during the first half of this year — a device Geldmacher contends will be the first bonafide 5G smartphone to hit the market.

Sprint also announced that later this year, Greenville, South Carolina, will become the first “smart city” of its kind, using a variety of Sprint technologies including 5G network connectivity and the carrier’s Curiosity Internet of Things platform to enable a vast city-wide network of internet-connected vehicles, autonomous drones and other internet-connect devices.

It’s worth noting AT&T and Yahoo Finance parent Verizon (VZ) already offer 5G, although those networks remain extremely limited in availability in the U.S., and we’re months away from smartphones that can take advantage of such advanced networks. But once 5G networks become more widely available in the U.S. and devices roll out that can readily take advantage of them, users can expect significantly faster speeds, lower latency and increased bandwidth, which will prove important for more complex, data-crunching devices like self-driving cars as they become more common in the months and years to come.

JP Mangalindan is the Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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