Sprint Sues AT&T Over ‘Fake’ 5G Ads, AT&T Fights Back

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Sprint filed suit February 7 in federal court, alleging AT&T’s new “5G Evolution”  branding on its phones and networks that use 4G LTE technology is false advertising.

In the 27-page document filed with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, Sprint alleges AT&T, “has employed numerous deceptive tactics to mislead consumers into believing” its “offering a 5th generation wireless network.”

“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,” states Sprint. 

Sprint alleges AT&T seeks to gain an unfair advantage in the race to 5G, “But calling its network “5GE” (or “5G E” or “5G Evolution”) does not make it a 5G network and instead deceives customers into believing it is something that it is not.”

Sprint tells the court, it’s a direct competitor with AT&T, and AT&T’s actions “threaten Sprint’s business and goodwill,” and “harms consumers.” Sprint also claims it’s lost sales as a result. It does not specify an amount in damages it seeks, stating the figure should be determined at trial.  

In a statement provided to Engadget, AT&T said in response:

“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.”

AT&T stated further: “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.” AT&T also criticized Sprint’s pending $26 billion merger with T-Mobile, saying, “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.”

Asked about the lawsuit by CNBC Friday, AT&T Chairman/CEO Randall Stephenson said: “We feel very comfortable with how we have characterized the new service that we’re launching. When we go in a market … and we light up this spectrum, our customers are seeing radical increases in speed and performance on the network. This is a step that is required to get to ultimate 5G. And it’s an evolutionary step to 5G.”

Stephenson further explained: “We are characterizing this as 5GE, 5G Evolution. We obviously have done our homework. We’ve done a lot of work around how we characterize this. And we’re being very clear with our customers that this is an evolutionary step.”  Comments? Email Us.

February 11, 2019 

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