AT&T has managed to be the sleaziest company in early 2019 by rolling out “updates” to a couple of their phones that change the network indicators to show that they’re using the carrier’s brand new 5G network. The only problem is that those phones that received updates aren’t 5G compatible, and the network they’re connecting to is AT&T’s run-of-the-mill 4G network.
Long story short, when those phones are on some upgraded parts of AT&T’s network they’ll show an indicator about using a 5GE, or 5G Evolution, network. That’s pure marketing fluff and something that every other carrier also offers, but none of them try to call their networks 5G.
Verizon called AT&T out for the silly tactic, but Sprint is going a step further by filing a lawsuit to stop AT&T from doing this at all.
To make a case for damages, Sprint even commissioned a survey that showed that over half of people think that AT&T’s 5GE network is the same or better as other 5G networks, and 43% think that if they were to purchase a phone from AT&T today it would be 5G capable. We all know neither of those things are true, but clearly some sizeable percentage of the general public doesn’t know better.
Sprint’s lawsuit wants AT&T to stop using the branding because it’s harming the general public while also hurting Sprint’s brand from an unfair comparison despite having the same type of network, and they’re not wrong. AT&T released a pretty terrible statement in defense of the practice.
“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.’”
AT&T knows that 5GE is simply rebadged LTE but doesn’t want to use the same LTE-Advanced branding that everyone else is using, which, yeah, seems pretty misleading to me. This one’s absolutely going to be a mess when it goes to court.