Rival wireless carrier Sprint is suing the company over its claims, calling 5GE a "false and misleading" label created to deceive customers into thinking AT&T's service is faster and better than others.
AT&T started rolling out the 5GE label on smartphones last month, and now the icon is appearing on iPhones. 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.
The war of words between America's top carriers over 5G branding has now devolved into a lawsuit. In the lawsuit, Sprint said 54 percent of consumers believe AT&T's 5GE network is the same or better than a 5G network, and 43 percent think if they buy a smartphone through AT&T today, the phone will be 5G-capable. According to Sprint, the "5G E" logo displayed on customers' phones doesn't mean that they would benefit from 5G technology, which is not yet available in the United States.
AT&T is being taken to task for what some are calling its "fake 5G" technology. AT&T started this whole mess then it chose to relabel its LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network as 5G Evolution (5G E).
AT&T also took a shot at Sprint's claims that it can't deploy a robust 5G network unless USA regulators approve its proposed merger with T-Mobile. "AT&T's "5G E" network is a 4G LTE Advanced network, just like the networks of Sprint and the other major wireless service providers, none of which are mischaracterizing their 4G LTE Advanced networks as 5G". "I received an update on my phone.to allow access to the new 5G network", one forum poster wrote.
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Sprint Corp sued AT&T Inc late on Thursday, saying it was misleading consumers into believing that they were using fifth generation or 5G wireless network, a technology that has not yet been widely deployed.
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'. It is not a secret that Verizon, T-Mobile, and even Sprint have their own plans for a mobile 5G wireless network. "We've brought the "5G E" indicator to some of our most popular and capable smartphones simply to help customers know when they are in an area where the enhanced wireless experience may be available", the statement said.
Sprint conducted a survey of wireless customers to see if people understood the facts about 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".
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.
"We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G", AT&T said. Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds.