Sprint says in the lawsuit that competition within the wireless industry, specifically between the big four carriers, is fierce, and since most people in the U.S. have mobile phones, carriers these days typically acquire new customers by pulling them away from competitors.
It was, in fact "a transparent attempt to influence consumers" purchasing decisions by deceiving them into believing that AT&T's network-because it claims to be a 5G wireless network-is more technologically advanced and of higher quality than those of other wireless service providers, including Sprint, ' alleges the complaint.
"In its claim, Sprint said it commissioned a survey that found 54 percent of consumers believed the "5GE" networks were the same as or better than 5G, and that 43 percent think if they buy an AT&T phone today it will be 5G capable, even though neither of those things are true". The 5G, or fifth generation, mobile network will offer faster speeds and connectivity, as well as larger capacity, Sprint said in its suit.
"I fully understand why our competitors might be upset with this", Stephenson said. 5G is not an incremental or backward-compatible update to existing standards, is separate from 4G standards like LTE or WiMAX, and can not be delivered to existing phones, tablets, or wireless modems by means of tower upgrades or software updates. "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".
AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan recently defended the 5G E branding, saying AT&T's rivals are "frustrated" and that "I have now occupied beachfront real estate in my competitors' heads". Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds.
AT&T feels differently as it is using 5G in its marketing campaigns to show select customers where the technology will be available when it finally comes to market, CNBC reported. Since 2017, it has been building the "5G E" brand name for its LTE-Advanced network.
AT&T in recent weeks has begun replacing the "LTE" symbol at the top of some smartphones with a new icon that says "5G E", which stands for "5G Evolution". Which means that AT&T is misleading customers.
Through the suit, Sprint aims to stop AT&T from using designations and terms related to 5G such as 5GE, 5G-E, or 5G Evolution.
"AT&T is so anxious about how limited their 5G footprint will be that they've renamed their existing LTE network '5G Evolution" said the firm's Neville Ray.
AT&T does have a mobile 5G network out there in the wild, with an expansion planned for the rest of 2019 and beyond.
AT&T did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
"We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G".
On AT&T's own forums, some-but not all-consumers appear confused. AT&T offers standards-based 5G in parts of 12 cities, but its first 5G device for sale is a mobile hotspot rather than a phone.
The website Engadget harkened back to 2012 complaints about AT&T and T-Mobile using 4G labels on services that others considered to be faster 3G technologies.