Sprint has filed a lawsuit against AT&T over the latter carrier's 5G E branding, calling it "flase advertising and deceptive acts and practices". Sprint says in its complaint that while all four of the major U.S. carriers are working to be the first to market with a true wireless 5G service, AT&T "has sought to gain an unfair advantage in the race to 5G by embarking on a nationwide advertising campaign to deceive consumers into believing that its existing 4G LTE Advanced network is now a 5G network."
To help reinforce its position, Sprint commissioned a survey that found that 54 percent of consumers believed that "5G E" networks were the same or better than 5G. The survey also found that 43 percent of people think that if they buy an AT&T phone today, it will be capable of running on a 5G network.
“AT&T is deliberately deceiving consumers into believing that their existing 4G LTE network operates on a coveted and highly anticipated 5G network. The reality is that this network isn’t ‘new’ and ‘5G E’ is a false and misleading term," Sprint said in a statement. "AT&T is just like Sprint and all the other major wireless carriers currently operating a nationwide 4G LTE network. 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 is asking for an injunction to prevent AT&T from using "5G E", "5GE", "5G Evolution", or any designation containing "5G" until its network complies with 5G standards.
AT&T responded to Sprint's lawsuit this morning, saying that its customers "love" what it's doing with 5G E and the indicator that it's rolling out and that it plans to fight the lawsuit. Here's AT&T's full statement to Engadget:
"We understand why our competitors don't like what we are doing, but our customers love it. We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G. 5G Evolution and the 5GE indicator simply let customers know when their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available. That's what 5G Evolution is, and we are delighted to deliver it to our customers.
"We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G. Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds. Sprint will have to reconcile its arguments to the FCC that it cannot deploy a widespread 5G network without T-Mobile while simultaneously claiming in this suit to be launching 'legitimate 5G technology imminently.'"
It'll be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out. T-Mobile and Verizon have commented on AT&T's 5G E network indicator, too, but neither carrier took things as far as Sprint, with T-Mo posting a funny video and Verizon writing an open letter. AT&T seems ready to dig in and defend its branding, so don't be surprised if we hear more on this matter soon.