Sprint sues AT&T over fake 5G E branding

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Sprint has recently sued AT&T in federal court for fake branding of its 4G LTE networks as 5G E. The lawsuit, first spotted by Engadget, the company claims that consumers are likely to confuse AT&T’s so-called 5G Evolution network with actual 5G, and will incorrectly think that AT&T’s current phones support the new standard.

As well as seeking to prevent AT&T from branding anything as 5G E that doesn’t adhere to the agreed 3GPP 5G specification, Sprint is also seeking damages due to the loss of sales it claims it’s suffering as a result of AT&T’s actions.

In its lawsuit, Sprint has said that it had surveyed customers and had found that 54 percent of them believed that AT&T’s 5G E is as fast as, or faster than, actual 5G. Sprint’s CTO has previously said that AT&T’s branding blatantly misleads consumers who see 5G E logos appear on both Android and iOS devices when connected to parts of AT&T’s enhanced 4G network.

Responding to the lawsuit, AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson told CNBC, “We feel very comfortable with how we’ve characterized the new service that we’re launching, and that he believed the company is being very clear with our customers that this is an evolutionary step.”

Stephenson also said that he understood why AT&T’s competitors might have been angry about the move, but he appeared to suggest this was because they were incapable of offering the same service.

It’s not a play everybody can run. It’s a play that we really like, and it’s a play that’s going to differentiate us in the marketplace as we begin to roll this out over the course of this year, AT&T’s CEO said.

AT&T issued a statement in response to the lawsuit saying:

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.