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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

After upgrading to iOS 12.2, the newest version of iOS, AT&T users began seeing a "5GE" icon in place of "LTE" for their cellular connection.

This is AT&T's misleading name for an enhanced 4G LTE network, and as explained in the guide below, is not actual 5G connectivity.


Why am I seeing a 5GE icon?

According to AT&T, customers who upgrade to iOS 12.2 or later will see the "5GE" icon when connected to what AT&T is calling a 5GE network. This is an AT&T-only thing, so it's limited to AT&T customers.

It's also only showing up on iOS devices running iOS 12.2 or later, but the 5GE icon has also previously rolled out to some Android devices.

What is 5GE?

5GE, or 5G "Evolution" is the name that AT&T is using in areas where 4G LTE technologies like three-way carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM are available. These features making existing wireless networks faster, provided your smartphone supports them.


These are technologies that have already been in place on AT&T's network and networks from Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Your phone has probably already been connecting to AT&T's LTE networks with these capabilities even before AT&T added its 5GE icon.

AT&T, in fact, started rolling out support for these technologies in 2017, as did other U.S. carriers. AT&T says that in areas with these upgraded LTE technologies, customers can reach peak theoretical wireless speeds of up to 400 megabits per second, but in real-world usage that ends up being closer to 40 megabits per second.

These are LTE speeds that are available on many other carriers to customers using modern devices.

What's real 5G?

Real 5G networks offer much faster connection speeds and better performance. Carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are working on rolling out 5G mobile networks.

Actual 5G networks, when up and running with full coverage available, may be anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than LTE networks. AT&T is working on true 5G, but it is not the same as the 5GE network being advertised.

So wait, my iPhone isn't connecting to a 5G network?

There are no iPhones in existence at the current time that are capable of connecting to a 5G network.

5G technology requires new modem hardware so until there is an iPhone with a 5G modem chip, no iPhones will work with 5G networks. Your current iPhone will not connect to 5G networks and will be limited to LTE.

I have an earlier version of iOS, will I see 5GE?

At this time, AT&T says that only devices running iOS 12.2 or later will display the 5GE icon. That doesn't mean your iPhone isn't taking advantage of AT&T's 5GE network, though, since the icon is merely cosmetic.

Where is 5GE available?

According to AT&T, "5GE" speeds are available in more than 400 markets, and by the first half of 2019, the upgraded LTE technology is expected to be available nationwide to more than 200 million customers.


Why is AT&T misleading customers?

AT&T's justification is that 5G technology "is an evolution" rather than a single event, which is a rather weak argument.

AT&T wants customers to know that they're on an upgraded LTE network with faster speeds than were possible a few years back ahead of the rollout of 5G, but using 5G terminology is an underhanded and confusing way of doing it. In short, it's a marketing tactic that's essentially designed to fool customers into thinking they're connecting to a faster 5G network, capitalizing on all the buzz around 5G technology right now.

Are other carriers using misleading 5G branding?

T-Mobile has made fun of AT&T's decision to call its LTE networks 5G, while Sprint has called it "blatantly misleading."

Verizon has taken out full page ads in major newspapers like The New York Times and has warned about the dangers of confusing terms.
"The potential for 5G is awesome, but the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist."

"Verizon is making this commitment today: We won't take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5. We will not call our 4G network a 5G network if customers don't experience a performance or capability upgrade that only 5G can deliver.
Sprint has also taken out full-page ads bashing AT&T's deception and has gone so far as to sue AT&T for the misleading branding. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, the other three major carriers in the U.S., have no plans to introduce similarly confusing branding ahead of the rollout of 5G.

When will AT&T actually have a real 5G network?

Technically, AT&T has already started rolling out real 5G service in parts of 12 cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

AT&T plans to expand real 5G coverage to additional cities that include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose during the first half of 2019. AT&T's 5G networks are denoted by a "5G+" icon.

But remember, even with 5G networks available from AT&T, devices also need to incorporate 5G chips to use them.

AT&T is also confusingly rolling out another network feature called LTE-LAA, a second upgraded version of LTE with peak theoretical speeds of 1 gigabit per second.

The National Advertising Review Board recommended that AT&T discontinue its 5GE marketing claims because it could be misleading to consumers, but AT&T said that it "respectfully disagrees" with the decision and has no plans to remove the 5GE icon from smartphones because it's not considered advertising.

When will my iPhone work with 5G networks?

Apple plans to introduce 5G iPhones in 2020 with the 2020 iPhone 12 lineup.

Some Android smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, started releasing 5G smartphones in 2019. Carriers have also started rolling out 5G networks, but it will take several years for 5G to get off the ground and for coverage to spread across the United States.

Article Link: 5GE: AT&T's Misleading Label on iPhone
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macrumors 65816
Feb 10, 2010
Wouldn't this make more sense if it were 4Ge isntead of 5Ge? Or even something "trendy" like 4Gx to signify that it's different. I agree it would be good to know when I'm in an area that has more advanced 4G like including mimo, but 5Ge is bizarre nomenclature essentially for when 5G doesn't exist in most markets.

And you KNOW that our less tech-inclined friends are going to say "I've got 5G where I live." Uhhhh, no, you probably do not.

Darmok N Jalad

macrumors 601
Sep 26, 2017
Tanagra (not really)
For as much bad press as AT&T is getting for this 5Ge farce, I wouldn’t be suprised if they walk themselves back from the term. It almost seems like a class-action lawsuit waiting in the wings.


macrumors 68020
Jun 29, 2014
=== Nowheresville ===
I’m in the U.K. but am guessing this icon is only going to appear on the XS/XS Max?

Gigabit-LTE and 4 x 4 MIMO isn’t available on the XR (nor is LTE-LAA) hence my query.


macrumors 6502
Oct 27, 2007
In my area of crappy LTE service (1-2 bars, doesn't work half the time), I noticed after installing 12.2 that I am also apparently in a mixed LTE/5GE area. I chuckled as I drove through town today, the phone must have switched back and forth from LTE to 5GE about 10 times, neither of which was any better than the other (in other words, both are crap, even though they are the same thing). AT&T... smdh


macrumors member
Sep 12, 2016
This is why I won’t touch ANYTHING owned by AT&T! I’ve had several of their services and EVERYTIME either the service didn’t work very well or they found anyway they could to charge me more money. AT&T has absolutely NO ethics.
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macrumors regular
Jun 30, 2010
View attachment 828420 Here’s what that new icon really is .

Keep in mind this is in Portland where at&t says it’s available according to the icon on my iPhone
Can you try again when you have full reception I am curious.
[doublepost=1553566313][/doublepost]Does anyone else feel like if they JUST HAD TO LABEL the upgrade, that it should have been called 4Ge instead?
This is an evolution of the 4G tech not of 5G tech. Right?
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macrumors regular
Aug 21, 2014
Wouldn't this make more sense if it were 4Ge isntead of 5Ge? Or even something "trendy" like 4Gx to signify that it's different. I agree it would be good to know when I'm in an area that has more advanced 4G like including mimo, but 5Ge is bizarre nomenclature essentially for when 5G doesn't exist in most markets.

They could label it LTE-A. Since that's what it is.
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Apr 1, 2005
Space The Only Frontier

I tested it four times.

Minimum was 29 down and 1.7 up
Maximum was 49 down and about 1 up

This is inside my single level home in a residential urban neighborhood.

iPhone Xs
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macrumors G5
Jun 27, 2007
Central U.S.
I doubt anything will come from this or change because they got away with it last time. I remember one day my iPhone 4S started showing a 4G icon and I was really confused because 4G isn’t even a thing. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile should screw with them and call their new 5G network 6G and trademark all variations such as 6GE, 6G+, 6G anything and allow anyone but AT&T to use it.

Isn’t there like a standards body for this crap? It’s not like companies can just say their router uses WiFi 12 or their phone uses BlueTooth 9.1. AT&T is so dirty and misleading. I dropped them not long after when I got my iPhone 5 in 2012.


macrumors newbie
Mar 26, 2013
I’m in the U.K. but am guessing this icon is only going to appear on the XS/XS Max?

Gigabit-LTE and 4 x 4 MIMO isn’t available on the XR (nor is LTE-LAA) hence my query.

No - it'll show as 4G. This is AT&T marketing crap - when you're on a better than standard LTE in any way, you'll see 5GE - but only on AT&T.

All US iPhones show LTE whereas UK iPhones say 4G. If I go to the UK (my homeland) my iPhone says "LTE" when my mates iPhones on the same network say 4G.

This is all because AT&T and T-Mobile over here decided that their UMTS (3G) network was actually a 4G network for pure marketing reasons before their proper 4G networks launched. So if my iPhone connects to an AT&T or T-Mobile 3G network, it says 4G but when connected to a proper 4G network, it says LTE.

When I'm back home and roaming on say EE and I'm outside of a 4G (LTE) network, my phone says 3G.

(Still not as much as a **** show as Brexit though).

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