Sprint sues AT&T for lying to consumers with fake 5GE branding

Sprint sues AT&T for lying to consumers with fake 5GE branding

Wireless carrier Sprint is suing AT&T, saying its competitor's "5GE" promotional campaign is "deceptive" and illegal.

Sprint will seek a temporary restraining order against AT&T to cease the 5GE commercials and labeling as soon as possible, a lawyer for the company said.

If you're an AT&T customer with a high-end handset, you may have noticed the "5GE" radio indicator pop up at the top of your screen after a recent Android update.

The four major carriers in the US are all rushing headlong into 5G.

Back in December, AT&T started rolling out "5G E" branding to some of the phones on its network. I have personally already encountered AT&T customers who believe their Samsung phone now has 5G. AT&T is also building a 5G network, which could be 10-to-40 times faster than current 4G LTE networks, but is now wrongly using the 5GE label, Sprint argued. There is, in reality, nothing "5G" about AT&T's "5G E" network, and AT&T has received a lot of justified criticism for trying to pass off 4G LTE Advanced as some kind of 5G implementation. Since 2017, it has been building the "5G E" brand name for its LTE-Advanced network.

Sprint accuses AT&T of running an advertising blitz that is "falsely and misleadingly stating that AT&T offers its wireless service on a 5G network" and incorrectly telling customers their phones are operating on a 5G network when they are instead connected to a 4G LTE network. There is the outright lie involved in suggesting something is 5G when it isn't and then there's the damage done to Sprint competitively and the outright damage done to the U.S. telecoms market by deceiving it into thinking 5G is already here. "We understand why our competitors don't like what we are doing, but our customers love it", AT&T said in a statement, describing its 5GE network as "an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G".

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. That's thanks in large part to AT&T's bogus "5G E" marketing.

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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. The carrier is now in the process of trying to merge with rival T-Mobile.

"We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G", AT&T said.

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

Sprint also argues that AT&T's deception is working on some level, citing a survey it commissioned that shows 54% of polled consumers believing that "AT&T's "5GE" network is the same as or better than a 5G network", while 43% of consumers believe that AT&T is now selling phones that are capable of connecting to 5G networks.

"AT&T's advertising is false and misleading", Sprint wrote.

Executives at Verizon and T-Mobile have also criticized AT&T's move. "Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds", AT&T said in response to the lawsuit.

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