Normally, we do not pay much attention to T-Mobile's Twitter pranks, but earlier today the carrier had a solid response to some of AT & T's absurdity. In response to AT & T updating a few different phones to show a "5G E "- despite being completely unable to connect to a 5G network – T-Mobile tweeted a short video of someone putting a "9G" note on top of the iPhone's LTE icon.
It's a simple, stupid trick. And it's a completely fair metaphor of what AT & T is doing.
AT & T is upgrading three phones (Samsung Galaxy S8 Active and LG V30 and V40) to show this pseudo-5G icon when they are connected to LTE networks that have received some upgrades to increase speed. While it is true that the connections may be slightly faster than a typical LTE connection, AT & T is still definitely using 4G technology and shakes the speeds completely typical of 4G. It's all just to help AT & T have an edge in the race for 5G.
What makes this worse is that AT & T is promoting the LTE speed-up technology that is, in fact, behind in rolling out. AT & T's "5G Evolution" network is really only referring to LTE Advanced and Advanced Pro, a series of technology upgrades that other carriers have been launching for years. Verizon said during the summer that it had deployed the technology in 1,100 markets. T-Mobile reported that it was live in 920 markets in November 2017. AT & T, by contrast, has "5G Evolution" in just under 400 markets. (Operators, of course, may be measuring these things in different ways and have discussed this in the past, but I have not seen a measurement where AT & T is not significantly behind schedule.)
So, indeed, yes, AT & T has just put a "5G" sticker over the LTE logo of their phones. He did not improve anyone's phone; and while AT & T has has improved its network a bit, is not offering anything that other major carriers have not yet done.
Of course, the tricks of 5G marketing are just beginning. T-Mobile itself was guilty of similar marketing disparities in 2010 when it claimed to have "America's largest 4G network" despite not having a 4G network. In fact, a big part of the reason we refer to 4G as LTE (the name of its technical standard) is because of all the bad marketing claims during the 3G transition. We will probably know soon enough if the 5G is going in the same direction.