Sprint sues AT&T over 'misleading' 5G E icon

Credit Simon Dawson  Bloomberg

Credit Simon Dawson Bloomberg

Sprint said it wrote to AT&T on January 4, 2019, "demanding that AT&T stop its false and misleading activity", but AT&T "den [ied] Sprint's request and refus [ed] to alter its deceptive conduct". What AT&T touts as 5G, however, is nothing more than an enhanced fourth-generation Long Term Evolution wireless service, known as 4G LTE Advanced, which is offered by all other major wireless carriers.

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.

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.

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.

Cedit: AT&T "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", the lawsuit filed Friday (Feb. 8) in U.S. District Court in NY alleges. AT&T says 5GE is meant to lay the groundwork for what it's calling 5G+, which will launch later this year.

Facepalm: AT&T is once again preemptively branding technologies that don't exist yet, this time labeling their 4G LTE network upgrades as "5GE". 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, ' " AT&T said.

It appears that for now, AT&T is doubling down on the concept that consumers aren't confused by "5G E" and don't believe it's the same as 5G-NR, the technology that most of the industry calls "5G".

In the lawsuit, which tech news website Engadget obtained and posted online, Sprint asked for a jury trial and said AT&T is breaking federal and state laws on false advertising and deception.

"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 Ars. T-Mobile took to Twitter with a hilarious mockery of the branding, slapping a "9G" sticker onto an iPhone. It is not a secret that Verizon, T-Mobile, and even Sprint have their own plans for a mobile 5G wireless network. 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. Previously, another USA operator, T-Mobile also humiliated the official AT&T. In December a year ago, AT&T, the second-largest operator in the United States, announced that it had pushed the "5G E" icon to users.

"I've heard they even have plans to show a 5G network indicator for LTE on consumers" devices to hide the fact that actual 5G will be scarce, duping customers into thinking they're getting something they're not'.

Sprint also argues that AT&T's deception is working on some level, citing a survey it commissioned that shows 54% of polled consumers believing that "AT&T's "5GE" network is the same as or better than a 5G network", while 43% of consumers believe that AT&T is now selling phones that are capable of connecting to 5G networks.

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