AT&T says phones made and sold before this year won’t be able to use the newer fifth-generation (5G) wireless frequencies, a setback that puts one of the largest phone providers at a disadvantage against its competitors.
On Wednesday, the technology website Ars Technica reported that AT&T had reversed a statement made earlier this year promising flagship phones from major electronic companies could support its new 3.45 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum, which the company announced through a recent Federal Communications Commission. (FCC) auction.
The new 3.45 GHz spectrum is popularly referred to as “mid-band” and has the potential to provide faster data transfer rates at greater distances. The 3.7 GHz or “low band” spectrum offers comparable speeds to the company’s fourth-generation (4G) LTE network, while the millimeter wave frequencies offer much faster speeds over a much shorter distance.
Earlier this year, Chris Sambar, AT&T’s Vice President of Network, told technology website CNET that Apple iPhones and some Android phones sold in recent years would receive a software update that would give them access to the new mid-band spectrum. . Some 5G-enabled tablets and hotspots would also receive the update, Sambar said.
This week, AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said Sambar’s statements were “accidentally provided and then incorrectly confirmed,” and that only newer Apple and Android devices such as the iPhone 14 and Galaxy S22 phones would be able to connect to the newer frequencies on the carrier’s 5G network.
“We regret the error and apologize to the reporter and his readers for the error,” Greer said.
AT&T continues to sell phones with three-year payment install plans that have access to some, but not all, of the carrier’s 5G frequencies. Marketing materials reviewed by The desk didn’t seem to specify which phones could use AT&T’s mid-band spectrum.
Providing false information to reporters is just one of many mistakes AT&T has made regarding its wireless network.
Two years ago, AT&T sent a message to customers with older-model phones warning that the third-generation (3G) wireless network would be dismantled. The tone of the message led customers to believe their phones were at risk of failing, when in fact the company had set a date for the network to shut down two years in the future. The company has not told customers that the phones would still work on its 4G LTE network, which it still supports today.
In January, AT&T made headlines when it announced an unlimited data plan sold through Walmart that offered priority access to its 4G LTE and 5G networks for $45 a month, making it one of the cheapest premium offerings in the industry. A few months later, the company quietly withdrew the data plan The desk AT&T did not disclose that the plan was only available to Walmart customers who paid full price for a new prepaid smartphone.