Sprint has filed a lawsuit against competitor AT&T over the latter's use of "5G E" branding on certain phones. I have personally already encountered AT&T customers who believe their Samsung phone now has 5G. Sprint has filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to prevent AT&T from using the 5GE tags on its devices or advertising.
Nothing less than the public's introduction to 5G is at stake.
For an overview of 5G networks, when and where 5G networks are being deployed, when true 5G smartphones are being released, and how businesses and consumers can benefit from 5G technologies, check out TechRepublic's cheat sheet for 5G mobile networks and for 5G smartphones. Right now, however, 5G is still in its earliest stages.
"AT&T's advertising is false and misleading", Sprint wrote. AT&T offers standards-based 5G in parts of 12 cities, but its first 5G device for sale is a mobile hotspot rather than a phone. Similarly, Verizon launched non-standard fixed 5G service in four neighborhoods in California. It is not a secret that Verizon, T-Mobile, and even Sprint have their own plans for a mobile 5G wireless network.
AT&T pulled a fast one.
At the moment, the ITU defines "5G" as something distinct from LTE. AT&T is just like Sprint and all the other major wireless carriers now operating a nationwide 4G LTE network.
AT&T's "5G E" is available in more than 400 markets nationwide.
AT&T also clarified that it's an upgrade to "5G+, our mmWave 5G network, not 5G E", so people using the Netgear hotspot will benefit, and future 5G+ devices will benefit as well. AT&T and T-Mobile were upgrading their 3G smartphones to show 4G. The carrier is now in the process of trying to merge with rival T-Mobile. "This isn't just bad marketing by @att, it's a FLAT OUT LIE", said Legere on Twitter in January.
5G E, which stands for AT&T's 5G Evolution initiative, can offer data speeds up to 50 or 100 times faster than 4G networks. According to a survey commissioned by Sprint, 54% of consumers believe "5G E" networks are the same as or better than 5G and 43% believe buying an AT&T phone today will be 5G capable.
AT&T has responded to the lawsuit from Sprint, stating that they "understand why our competitors don't like what we are doing, but our customers love it". "By making the false claim that it is offering a 5G wireless network where it offers only a 4G LTE Advanced network, AT&T is attempting to secure an unfair advantage in the saturated wireless market". "So we're characterizing this as 5GE, 5G Evolution".
AT&T said it "will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G", and that "customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds".
AT&T also took a shot at its competition.
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 asking a NY federal court for an injunction.
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