AT&T's '5G E' icon might continue to show up after ad watchdog's order

The carrier reportedly says a National Advertising Review Board order only applies to its ads, not to the service icon that shows up on your phone.

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The National Advertising Review Board isn't happy about AT&T's "5G Evolution" designation.

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A National Advertising Review Board panel on Wednesday called for a halt to AT&T's use of the "5G Evolution" label. The designation applies to AT&T's upgraded 4G LTE network, which the company's rivals slammed as "fake 5G." Despite this, you may continue to see  the "5G E" service icon on your phone.

AT&T started using the 5G E designation in 2018, reasoning that it serves as a foundation for true 5G next-generation cellular technology. However, 5G E doesn't mean your 4G phone can actually connect to a 5G network, and Sprint (which has since merged with T-Mobile) sued AT&T over its use of the "deceptive" 5G E branding in early 2019.

The NARB panel agreed that the terms "5G Evolution" and "The First Step to 5G" were misleading, and that consumers could believe they're getting 5G coverage.

The carrier sees things differently.

"AT&T respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the Panel majority. AT&T's customers nationwide continue to benefit from dramatically superior speeds and performance that its current network provides," company spokesperson Jim Kimberly said in an emailed statement.

Watch this: AT&T tries tricking customers with 5G E logo

"As a supporter of the self-regulatory process, however, AT&T will comply with the NARB's decision."

However, the wireless carrier told trade publication Light Reading that the recommendation only applies to its ads and not to its service icon, so "5G E" will keep appearing on your phone.

AT&T didn't respond to a request for comment.

CNET's Eli Blumenthal contributed to this report.

See also: Best AT&T phones of 2020: Apple, Samsung and more compared

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