Photo: AT&T

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

[Engadget]