AT&T's fake "5G" service sparks deceptive advertising lawsuit from Sprint

Ruben Fields
February 9, 2019

On Thursday, competitor Sprint went a step further and filed a lawsuit to block AT&T from using the "5GE" term, as well as label on customers' phones.

Sprint said in the lawsuit that the AT&T advertising "deceives consumers" into thinking they already have access to 5G connectivity, when they are really only connected to a faster 4G network.

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 customers are seeing 5GE where an LTE icon once appeared.

Merging with T-Mobile would allow the fourth-largest USA carrier to more aggressively compete with AT&T and Verizon, especially as the 5G war heats up later this year.

The tension grew over the past several weeks as some iPhones and Androids began displaying AT&T's 5G E symbol near the network coverage bars at the top of phone screens.

But those faster speeds are not 5G, and customers today don't own 5G-capable phones, because there are none. Yet. Yesterday, Sprint filed a lawsuit in federal district court alleging that by rebranding its gigabit 4G LTE service as "5G Evolution", AT&T "violates federal and state laws governing false advertising and deceptive acts". AT&T says 5GE is meant to lay the groundwork for what it's calling 5G+, which will launch later this year. As 4G LTE will be aggregated with 5G-NR in 5G networks, AT&T could also argue (accurately) that LTE is a component of 5G, so they might as well call it 5G.

AT&T does have a mobile 5G network out there in the wild, with an expansion planned for the rest of 2019 and beyond.

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Sprint said it is spending billions of dollars to roll out a "true" 5G network, starting in nine cities this year, including NY.

"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 wrote in the 23-page lawsuit filed in federal court in NY.

In response to the lawsuit, AT&T's Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in an interview with CNBC that the company's customers are seeing an increase in speed and performance on the "5G E" network and this is a step required to get to 'ultimate 5G'.

T-Mobile also hit out at the firm, accusing it of "duping customers" with the move. "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.'" Sprint and T-Mobile are still awaiting the fate of their proposed merger. It's 100% misleading garbage, that AT&T is fully aware of. Previously, another USA operator, T-Mobile also humiliated the official AT&T.

"AT&T's "5G E" network is not, in fact, a 5G wireless network, nor does AT&T sell a single 5G-enabled mobile phone or tablet", Sprint wrote.

According to Sprint, a survey showed that 54% of consumers believe that the "5G E" network is the same or even better than a real 5G network. Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds.

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