Sprint, the fourth-place wireless carrier, has now filed a lawsuit against AT&T for its blatantly misleading advertising. There's just one problem: AT&T doesn't offer phones that support 5G yet, and what it brands as "5G E" is actually just 4G LTE Advanced.
Meanwhile, 43 percent said if they buy an AT&T phone today, it would be capable of running on 5G. "AT&T's deceptive ads have harmed consumers by persuading them to purchase or continue purchasing AT&T's services based on the lie that they are offering 5G", said Sprint to Android Authority.
"AT&T is so anxious about how limited their 5G footprint will be that they've renamed their existing LTE network '5G Evolution" said the firm's Neville Ray.
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.
AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan recently defended the 5G E branding, saying AT&T's rivals are "frustrated" and that "I have now occupied beachfront real estate in my competitors' heads".
"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 said in the suit, published by Engadget. There is the outright lie involved in suggesting something is 5G when it isn't and then there's the damage done to Sprint competitively and the outright damage done to the USA telecoms market by deceiving it into thinking 5G is already here. Their argument is that 5G Evolution and the 5GE logo "simply let customers know their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available".
"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. 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". We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G. The carrier is now in the process of trying to merge with rival T-Mobile. AT&T's service is not 5G-ready or capable, and they have pulled stunts like this in the past.
Although we have to take Sprint's own carrier-commissioned survey results with a grain of salt, it says that 54 percent of consumers think that 5G E is at least the same or even better than true 5G technology.
Shares of AT&T (t) and Sprint (s) were down 1% on Friday in midday trading.
The website Engadget harkened back to 2012 complaints about AT&T and T-Mobile using 4G labels on services that others considered to be faster 3G technologies. "Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds", AT&T said in response to the lawsuit.
AT&T's Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said in an interview here 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".