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AT&T to Roll Out 5G Network That's Not Actually 5G

AT&T is using some wordsmithing to deliver to you faster Internet speeds. This week, the wireless carrier announced plans to deliver what it's calling the "5G Evolution" network to more than 20 markets by the end of the year. Those who can take advantage of the network will get twice the speeds you would normally get on the carrier's 4G LTE network.

However, there are a slew of caveats here that might dampen the excitement a bit of using your phone on the 5G Evolution.

Credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Jeremy Lips/Tom's Guide)

For starters, to call AT&T's move a 5G rollout would be a bad idea. 5G still has years of development and testing before it will be rolled out across the U.S. So don't let AT&T's use of "5G" make you think that the next-generation wireless standard has arrived.

In reality, the 5G AT&T is talking about is a bumped-up version of its 4G LTE to help it bridge the gap until the real 5G, with its ultra-fast speeds and better bandwidth, is rolled out.

MORE: The Fastest Wireless Network: Where Does AT&T Rank?

It's also important to note that AT&T won't offer its 5G Evolution technology to all of its customers initially. In fact, it's currently only available in Austin, TX, and the company plans to extend it to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other big markets in the coming months. If you're in a smaller metro market, you'll be out of luck.

Perhaps the biggest limitation, and the reason few people will likely have the chance to actually use the 5G Evolution, is that AT&T is restricting it to select devices — specifically, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+. While that's great if you have one of those particular phones in one of the specific cities where AT&T's faster service exists, it's not so great if you're using another device.

AT&T plans to continue rolling out 5G Evolution, with Indianapolis next on its list of cities. The carrier also says that it expects to add more devices that support 5G Evolution, though it didn't say which handsets would get the speedy treatment.

AT&T also promised its other customers speed increases as it continues to upgrade its network in anticipation for the eventual 5G rollout that all four major carriers are currently working on.

Don Reisinger is a communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter who has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine and The New York Times, as well as Tom's Guide.