Sprint takes AT&T to court over 5G Evolution branding

Screenshot from an AT&T commercial showing text that reads

Enlarge Screenshot from an AT&T

There are countless ways for AT&T to share the message that they are delivering an upgraded 4G LTE experience to customers that do not involve telling them their phone now connects in some way to 5G. Recently, Sprint, the fourth-largest mobile operator in the United States, filed a lawsuit against the US's second-largest mobile operator AT&T in the Southern District Court of NY, accusing the latter of using false 5G tags to mislead consumers. "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'". AT&T started this whole mess then it chose to relabel its LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network as 5G Evolution (5G E).

"I fully understand why our competitors might be upset with this", Stephenson said. Specifically, Sprint is suing AT&T for "false advertising" and "deceptive acts", noting that some customers will believe they have access to a 5G network when, in reality, they do not.

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. AT&T's response to the suit seems downright freakish and off-topic, especially given that average consumers likely don't know the difference between 5G and 5G E, AT&T's marketing efforts notwithstanding. The lawsuit called for the 5GE tags to be removed from AT&T devices and 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. That's what 5G Evolution is, and we are delighted to deliver it to our customers". "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". LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro offer features like 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM, which allow for Gigabit-level speeds.

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Sprint has filed a lawsuit against competitor AT&T over the latter's use of "5G E" branding on certain phones. T-Mobile settled for roasting AT&T on Twitter, while Verizon published a serious letter urging the mobile industry at large not to give in to the temptation to mislead customers with bogus branding. That didn't stop AT&T from updating devices on its network to show "5G E" in the status indicator at the top.

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

"We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G". In 2010 and 2011, first T-Mobile, then AT&T started calling the 3G HSPA+ technology "4G" for marketing reasons; eventually the ITU, the global body which decides these things, rolled over and declared that to be fine. Competing carriers cried foul as 5G E is little more than extension of 4G LTE technology and is in no way true 5G.

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