Sprint sues AT&T over ‘5G E’ icon as marketing claims heat up

Donna Miller
February 12, 2019

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.

AT&T has employed numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing that it now offers a coveted and highly anticipated fifth-generation wireless network, known as 5G. AT&T also took a stab at Sprint, stating that it "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'". The 5G, or fifth generation, mobile network will offer faster speeds and connectivity, as well as larger capacity, Sprint said in its suit.

Sprint has filed suit against AT&T for using a "5GE" appellation to describe its new phone offering that is actually just souped-up 4G technology. 5G is not an incremental or backward-compatible update to existing standards, is separate from 4G standards like LTE or WiMAX, and can not be delivered to existing phones, tablets, or wireless modems by means of tower upgrades or software updates.

AT&T reiterated that it introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, "clearly defining it as an evolutionary step" on the path towards 5G, said AT&T to Android Authority.

USA operator Sprint is so outraged by AT&T's attempt to rebrand its LTE-A service as 5Ge that it's taking its competitor to court over it.

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'. "That's what 5G Evolution is, and we are delighted to deliver it to our customers", said AT&T. "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". It's LTE Advanced. It's not 5G.

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Sprint may be confident in its complaint, but AT&T has fired back by saying, "We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G". However, for many users who do not understand technology, they will mistakenly believe that AT&T has provided the 5G network.

Sprint is arguing that, along with AT&T's advertising campaign promoting the 5G-evolution, is meant to convince customers they are using a true 5G network when they aren't.

AT&T is being taken to task for what some are calling its "fake 5G" technology. AT&T calls this "new" network 5GE.

AT&T issued its own statement that acknowledged a distinction between its 5GE service and "standards-based 5G" service.

AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But AT&T has yet to switch on such a network for smartphones, prompting Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint to pile on with tweets, full-page ads in print media and other statements condemning the rhetoric. Sprint commissioned a survey over 5GE with results showing that 54% of respondents believe that "5GE" is the same or better than 5G, while 43% believe that if they buy a phone from AT&T today, it'll be 5G capable.

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