An AT&T executive defended the company's rebranding of 4G phones as "5G E", saying that the name change has helped AT&T "br [eak] our industry's narrative" and get inside of its "competitors' heads".
Some Android phones already claim they're connected to a 5G network.
T-Mobile has completed the world's first data and video calls on a live 5G network using 600MHz spectrum as it continues to position itself as the only U.S. operator capable of delivering nationwide coverage.
Despite chastising AT&T, Verizon has also adopted the 5G label for technology that doesn't meet the industry 5G standard. The executive insisted that they were "pretty public" about what 5G E actually was.
AT&T seems to be taking the same approach to 5G that it did with 4G LTE when it was introduced.
"The T-Mobile team delivered our best customer results ever in Q4 2018, and we did it in a competitive climate while working hard to complete our merger with Sprint", said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. That's separate from the standards-based 5G network that AT&T and others are building.
As part of his keynote, Vestberg also introduced a variety of partners that foreshadow how 5G will be used by brands and marketers. Whether those customers understand that it isn't really 5G, however, is another question.
Even though real 5G isn't ready for smartphones yet, Donovan gloated that "everyone within the industry who competes with us didn't like the fact that the night before last, overnight the top of your phone now shows a 5G E". That little space caused a big stir after AT&T made a decision to add a new symbol, called 5Ge.
AT&T said it aims to enhance network capacity by 50 percent since 2017 - providing connectivity for consumers and first responders in urban and rural areas nationwide. At the time, T-Mobile chose to call its 3G service, which ran on an upgraded technology called HSPA+, 4G.
The advent of 5G networks will surely feature overpriced phones with designs that must make significant compromises to accommodate 5G antennas, but at least T-Mobile and Verizon phones probably won't feature fake 5G logos - not after they went through the trouble of calling out AT&T for that very thing, right?