Sprint Sues AT&T Over Fake 5G

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AT&T's peers have criticized its use of the "5G E" designation it started displaying on smartphones last month as misleading and "fake 5G", but Sprint's lawsuit filed Thursday takes it up another notch. There's just one problem: AT&T doesn't offer phones that support 5G yet, and what it brands as "5G E" is actually just 4G LTE Advanced.

Sprint is requesting that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY block AT&T from continuing to use the label "5G E" or any related variant of the label.

Sprint's complaint notes that all four major U.S. wireless carriers offer the same LTE-Advanced features as AT&T's "5G E" network and that "currently, there are no 5G-enabled mobile phones or tablets available for sale or lease to consumers". I have personally already encountered AT&T customers who believe their Samsung phone now has 5G.

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After being mocked by the internet and other carriers, AT&T is showing no signs of slowing down its push to mislead customers with a "5GE" connectivity logo on phones that do not support any sort of 5G connection. "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'". As 4G LTE will be aggregated with 5G-NR in 5G networks, AT&T could also argue (accurately) that LTE is a component of 5G, so they might as well call it 5G. 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. "It harms consumers by holding out AT&T's services as more technologically advanced than Sprint's and enticing consumers to switch wireless service providers (or remain AT&T subscribers) under false pretenses". AT&T has also been using the "5G E" term in recent advertisements. "AT&T has sought to gain an unfair advantage in the race to 5G by embarking on a nationwide advertising campaign to deceive consumers into believing that its existing 4G LTE Advanced network is now a 5G network", says Sprint in the filing.

AT&T's Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in an interview here 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".

"We understand why our competitors don't like what we are doing, but our customers love it", AT&T said in a statement provided to Tom's Guide. AT&T's service is not 5G-ready or capable, and they have pulled stunts like this in the past.

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A January report by The Wall Street Journal had noted complaints by Verizon and T-Mobile about AT&T's 5G E claims, though it failed to mention any objections by Sprint specifically.

AT&T's strategy, which arguably amounts to trickery, has been categorized by many as misleading at best and purposefully deceptive at worst. T-Mobile and Verizon have both pushed back against this in their own way. We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G.

As "proof" non-savvy consumers are being fooled, Sprint claims a company-commissioned survey found 54 percent of consumers thought AT&T's 5GE was the same as a real 5G network.

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"I've heard they even have plans to show a 5G network indicator for LTE on consumers" devices to hide the fact that actual 5G will be scarce, duping customers into thinking they're getting something they're not'.