Sprint sues AT&T over 5G branding

Screenshot from an AT&T commercial showing text that reads

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.

"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", Sprint said in the complaint.

"In its claim, Sprint said it commissioned a survey that found 54 percent of consumers believed the "5GE" networks were the same as or better than 5G, and that 43 percent think if they buy an AT&T phone today it will be 5G capable, even though neither of those things are true". In fact, a few YouTubers have done videos comparing 5GE to 4G LTE on AT&T's network and while there were some faster speeds on 5GE, that is likely due to newer technology being supported, like massive MIMO in a newer phone.

AT&T's product is "nothing more than" advanced LTE, or an advanced version of what the industry calls 4G Long Term Evolution technology, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of NY.

"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. 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. Stating that it introduced 5G Evolution or 5GE more than two years ago.

AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson told CNBC Friday morning that the company feels "very comfortable" with the "5G E" moniker. Now AT&T will have to head to court to defend its marketing strategy. Compounding the confusion, 17 percent of respondents said they already have 5G-and a full quarter of people who answered "yes" to the question, "Do you know what 5G means?" said they already have it. All three carriers have denounced AT&T's decision, saying that it gives 5G a bad reputation and will mislead customers.

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Sprint officials have talked about the carrier's latest and fastest service and have called it Advanced LTE.

An AT&T spokesperson previously confirmed to TechRepublic that its "5G Evolution" is built on LTE Advanced technology.

"We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G".

Sprint is suing AT&T over its fake 5G service, calling it deceptive advertising, the Washington Post reports. 5G Evolution and the 5G E indicator simply let customers know when their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available.

Following the "5GE" network branding (the "e" means enhanced, suggesting this is better still than 5G), the other three major U.S. carriers reacted in different ways.

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.

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