Sprint filed a federal lawsuit against AT&T on Thursday, claiming the telecom carrier is practicing a misleading marketing campaign around the fifth generation of mobile technology, or 5G. "The truth is that the network AT&T advertises as "5GE" offers consumers the same service as its 4G LTE Advanced service, which was already available to AT&T customers and has been deployed by all four national carriers".
The crux of the issue, Sprint notes, is that AT&T used a "software update to change the screens of mobile phones and tablets operating on the AT&T 4G LTE Advanced network to indicate falsely that these devices are connected to a 5G network".
"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 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.
"We feel very comfortable with how we characterize the new service that we're launching", AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson said on CNBC Friday morning.
In December, Kevin Petersen, an AT&T senior vice president said in a post on the company blog that 5GE services were available in 585 markets, while standards-based 5G services were available in parts of 12 cities.
Sprint's lawsuit claims that its business is being "irreparably harmed" by AT&T's use of the 5GE branding, and states that AT&T's usage of this branding amounts to deceptive advertising. "When we go into a market and we turn up this technology and we light up this spectrum, our customers are seeing radical increases in speed and performance on the network, and this is a step that's required to get to ultimate 5G, and it's an evolutionary step to 5G-it's a critical step".
Filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District in NY on Thursday, the complaint is a good primer on some aspects of wireless marketing, noting the "extremely saturated" wireless market is mainly served by Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, and implying that a tall story can go a long way: "In light of the highly saturated market, any perceived advancement in technology or in the capabilities of a service provider's wireless network can give that service provider a significant competitive advantage over other wireless companies that can last for years". It's LTE Advanced. It's not 5G. AT&T's LTE-A tech may be capable of near gigabit speeds, but 5G it most certainly is not.
Sprint is taking AT&T to court for its use of 5GE (5G Evolution) branding, which it says is misleading to people, Endgadget reported. "5G E" means "5G Evolution".
Sprint said that a survey showed 54 percent of AT&T's consumers believed their "5G E" network is the same as or better than a 5G network. AT&T customers are seeing 5GE where an LTE icon once appeared.
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.
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.