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Sprint sues AT&T over 5G branding

09 February 2019

Many experts believe that the tech-which could deliver speeds that are 100 to 200-times faster than 4G-won't arrive at scale for at least another two years.

AT&T started rolling out the 5GE label on smartphones last month, and now the icon is appearing on iPhones.

The war of words between America's top carriers over 5G branding has now devolved into a lawsuit.

Smartphones running on both Android and Apple's iOS platforms are sporting "5G E" for AT&T customers, even though those phones are not equipped to support 5G. I have personally already encountered AT&T customers who believe their Samsung phone now has 5G.

Cedit: AT&T "By making the false claim that it is offering a 5G wireless network where it offers only a 4G LTE Advanced network, AT&T is attempting to secure an unfair advantage in the saturated wireless market", the lawsuit filed Friday (Feb. 8) in U.S. District Court in NY alleges. "Sprint's argument is that what AT&T is doing is damaging the reputation of 5G, while it works to build out what it calls a 'legitimate early entry into the 5G network space'".

Facepalm: AT&T is once again preemptively branding technologies that don't exist yet, this time labeling their 4G LTE network upgrades as "5GE". "AT&T's "5G E" network is a 4G LTE Advanced network, just like the networks of Sprint and the other major wireless service providers, none of which are mischaracterizing their 4G LTE Advanced networks as 5G".

In a lawsuit first discovered by Engadget, Sprint accuses AT&T of employing "numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing that it now offers a coveted and highly anticipated fifth generation wireless network, known as 5G". We are "being clear with our customers, this is an evolutionary step to 5G".

AT&T said it "will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G", and that "customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds".

"Sprint will have to reconcile its arguments to the FCC that it can not deploy a widespread 5G network without T-Mobile while simultaneously claiming in this suit to be launching 'legitimate 5G technology imminently, '" AT&T said. Speaking after his company's quarterly earnings report on Thursday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said he had concerns. "AT&T's deceptive ads have harmed consumers by persuading them to purchase or continue purchasing AT&T's services based on the lie that they are offering 5G".

In response to the lawsuit, AT&T's Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in an interview with CNBC that the company's customers are seeing an increase in speed and performance on the "5G E" network and this is a step required to get to 'ultimate 5G'. Sprint dubbed its short-lived WiMax network 4G, while T-Mobile and AT&T blurred the lines by calling advanced 3G a flavor of 4G.

The lawsuit, first reported by Engadget, focuses on the idea that consumers will purchase AT&T phones because they incorrectly believe they will provide 5G service.

Sprint also claimed in their suit that 54 percent of customers they surveyed believed the "5GE" service was true 5G, further reinforcing their false advertising claim.

Sprint sues AT&T over 5G branding