AT&T has been branding a boosted version of its 4G service as “5G Evolution,” or as it appears on many phones—5G E.
People who see the 5G E on their phones may think they have the next generation of mobile networks. But really, they have a type of 4G LTE with some special features that increases the effective bandwidth of one signal or channel, and increase the amount of antennas involved with receiving and sending data.
AT&T explains the grifty term on its website, stating: “5G Evolution (5G E) is our first step on the road to 5G. Our improvements are already enabling faster speeds on our existing LTE network.”
Now, AT&T’s competitor Sprint is calling bullshit on the term, through a lawsuit filed in federal court, as originally reported by Engadget.
Sprint’s suit, filed on Thursday, asserts that consumers could mistake “5GE” for 5G, and incorrectly assume AT&T can support 5G. The suit states that 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.”
The complaint says that Sprint commissioned a survey, which apparently showed that 54 percent of consumers thought AT&T’s “5G E” was the same as or better than real 5G, and 43 percent of consumers thought AT&T’s currently available phones will be able to run real 5G.
A Sprint spokesperson told Gizmodo that the “5GE” term is false and misleading. “AT&T is deliberately deceiving consumers into believing that their existing 4G LTE network operates on a coveted and highly anticipated 5G network,” the spokesperson said. “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.”
Responding to the lawsuit, AT&T is now doubling down on a comment AT&T senior vice president for wireless technology Igal Elbaz told Tom’s Guide last month, in which he insisted that “our customers will love” 5GE.
Reached for comment, AT&T echoed that sentiment. “We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G,” AT&T said in a statement shared with Gizmodo. “We understand why our competitors don’t like what we are doing, but our customers love it.”