Sprint sues AT&T over 5G E false advertising and deceptive practices
posted Saturday Feb 9, 2019 by Scott Ertz
Any time there is a major transition in the wireless industry, at least one of the big players loses their grip on reality. During the 3G to 4G transition in 2010, it was T-Mobile who was all over the place. First, they claimed 4G didn't matter to them or customers, but then a month later they began lying about 4G, claiming that HSPA+, part of the 3G standard, was actually a 4G network, which we dubbed FauxG. By the time anything came of the false advertising and consumer deception, the company had used the money from AT&T's failed acquisition to build a 4G LTE network.
Now that we're on the verge of a 4G to 5G transition, we are experiencing an altered form of deja vu. Rather than T-Mobile lying about their network, though, we are seeing AT&T pull the exact same thing. The company has begun rebranding a large portion of their 4G network, known as LTE Advanced, as 5G Evolution (or 5G E). They have even begun issuing badge updates to phones on the network to make the claim directly to consumers. In addition, there are commercials online and on television making these false claims.
As you would have expected, the lawsuits have begun as well. The first suit to be filed is from Sprint, who is accurately claiming false advertising and deceptive practices. In the complaint, Sprint said,
By making the false claim that it is offering a 5G wireless network where it offers only a 4G LTE Advanced network, AT&T is attempting to secure an unfair advantage in the saturated wireless market. 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.
This is a more important case that the previous example, with Sprint and T-Mobile preparing to become one network in the near future. With AT&T, one of the two bigger networks, making the claim, it can hurt the smaller guys, and potentially damage the merger before it happens, making it harder for them to survive, even combined. There's no telling exactly what will come of the case, especially since T-Mobile got away with it in 2010, but hopefully, this practice can be put to rest now.