Sprint Sues AT&T Over Its Fake 5G, Says AT&T's Tricking Consumers

from the false-and-deceptive dept

Big telecom operators haven’t been exactly honest when it comes to the looming fifth-generation wireless standard (5G). Eager to use the improvements to charge higher rates and sell new gear, carriers and network vendors are already dramatically over-hyping where the service is actually available, and what it can actually do. Some, like AT&T, have gone so far as to actively mislead customers by pretending that its existing 4G networks are actually 5G. AT&T took this to the next level recently by issuing phone updates that change the 4G icon to “5GE” on customer phones, despite the fact that actual 5G isn’t really available.

In a country with functioning regulatory oversight, a competent regulator would at least issue a statement pointing out that misleading consumers in this fashion is false advertising. Instead, AT&T executives, FCC regulatory capture in tow, have quite literally expressed glee at the consternation their 5G head fake is creating among consumers and competitors alike:

“Every company is guilty of building a narrative of how you want the world to work, and I love the fact that we broke our industry’s narrative two days ago, and so they’re frustrated and they’re going to do what they do,” Donovan said.

“I think the result of last month, beating the industry out [with the 5G hotspot], and this 5G E launch a couple of days ago, our competitors are frustrated,” Donovan said. “if I have now occupied beachfront real estate in my competitors’ heads, that makes me smile.”

Late last week Sprint decided to respond by filing a lawsuit against AT&T in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, arguing that the “significance of AT&T?s deception cannot be overstated.” AT&T’s practice likely qualifies as “unfair and deceptive” under the FTC Act, and Sprint argues that the head fake is potentially costing it customers as consumer buy into the fact than AT&T’s ahead of the curve on 5G upgrades:

“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…But calling its network ?5GE? does not make it a 5G network and instead deceives customers into believing it is something that it is not…AT&T’s false and misleading statements deceive consumers into believing that AT&T now operates a 5G wireless network and, through this deception, AT&T seeks to induce consumers to purchase or renew AT&T’s services when they might otherwise have purchased Sprint’s services.”

AT&T’s likely to argue that its “5G E” or 5G Evolution technology really does offer faster speeds and better range than traditional 4G by incorporating 4×4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas and 256 QAM technologies. Still, that’s just an “enhanced” version of 4G, something AT&T tries to tap dance around by using the “E.”

However AT&T lawyers frame the company’s defense, it’s very clear AT&T’s still being misleading. Companies that think they’re building consumer excitement by misrepresenting what 5G is or where it’s available may find this kind of marketing is having the exact opposite impact (frustration, skepticism, distrust) their marketing departments originally hoped for.

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Companies: at&t, sprint

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Comments on “Sprint Sues AT&T Over Its Fake 5G, Says AT&T's Tricking Consumers”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

In their definition of competition they mean any method of communication. To them terrestrial broadband supplies competition, landlines provide competition, VOIP provides competition, and walkie talkies provide competition, HAM radios provide competition, hell even the post office and telegrams provide competition. So if there is only one mobile phone provider, to them, they still have competition.

And when, not if, that happens, who the hell needs bragging rights? As to how much they will charge? Well they will find out how much they can get away with before the populace determines the cost/benefit between convenience and price. The question then becomes, will they discern the difference before wireless is abandoned to the point that they cannot sustain their network, or after?

Either way, wireless is a want, not a need. I know many feel that it is a need today (pressure from companies that want 24/7 access to their employees and society in general (ooh shiny)), but the fact is, they got along without it before, and they can (and most likely will) get along without it in the future.

I get away without it now, but I no longer work and use a tablet and WiFi if I need to on the road. But I no longer need a leash, which is how I refer to cellphones. The same way I referred to that 50 mile radius pager issued to me back in the early 1980’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I am interested in how article 13 will impact the use of so called 5G in the US cell phone market and how this will led to the "death" of section 230.

In one hand we have a cell phone specification (5G) which defines how cell phones operate and in the other we have section 230 the Communications Decency Act, which is internet related legislation.

It seems these things are unrelated, please be specific in your answers because you are normally unable to properly define your grievances.

Killercool (profile) says:


People are still affected by that impression. Yes, that does mean that the customers in question are somewhat technologically illiterate, but that’s kinda beside the point.

The advertising was designed in such a way as to imply very strongly, without saying it outright, that the "g" was referring to speed, instead of what "g"eneration’s standard was being used.

4g peak download speed: 1000 Megabit/s, or 1 gigabit/s max.

Surely, it must have been accidental.

I’m sure you’re aware of all this, just putting it out there for the Google-impaired portion of the readers.

Bt Garner (profile) says:

So what will be the end result?

AT& will capitulate and end up calling it "5G E*" however you will be hard pressed to find the footnote saying that their "5G E" is not really 5G, but more like 9G/2, which is still more than 4G. Sprint will respond with some snarky ads, and collectively, all customers from both companies will end up with a "5G L" surcharge on their bills, to cover all the "5G Legal expenses" that both companies racked up.

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