Company War: Sprint Sues AT&T, Citing ‘False’ Advertising Practices After 5GE Hits Some iPhones

An AT&T logo is pictured in Pasadena, California, U.S.
An AT&T logo is pictured in Pasadena, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo)

Sprint has filed a lawsuit against AT&T after some customers of the latter noticed that their iPhones displayed "5GE" in the upper right corners of their phone screens. The American smartphone brand said the branding was damaging to other companies that offer legitimate 5G service.

Multiple tech outlets reported that the federal lawsuit stated that Sprint rolled out a survey for consumers. The survey found out that 54 percent of consumers believed the 5GE branding that AT&T unveiled last week had the same speed that legitimate 5G providers had to offer.

Sprint argued that AT&T is not helping promote 5G networks and instead is working on a scheme that actually translates to a "legitimate early entry into the 5G network space.

In a statement sent to Engadget, AT&T explained that while its competitors are unhappy about its latest reveal, consumers who use the service "love it." The statement further said, "5G Evolution and the 5GE indicator simply let customers know when their device is in an area where speeds up to twice as fast as standard LTE are available."

AT&T said it will "fight" the lawsuit against its rival telecom company. Sprint, on the other hand, said in its lawsuit that what the Dallas-based provider did is a move to entice consumers to switch providers. The lawsuit also said AT&T made its advertising stint "under false pretenses."

WIRED noted that AT&T's 5GE service introduced back in 2017, does not really provide the expected 10 gigabits per second that 5G networks have. The outlet further stressed that some services based on real 5G technologies cannot even reach a 1 gigabit per second range.

Only a few phones today are able to support 5G networks. However, it is expected that the real deal will come around sometime next year.

H. Jonathan Redway, an attorney at Dickinson Wright who has had experience working in false advertising cases, explained what could happen between the warring companies. Redway explained that if AT&T loses the lawsuit, the telecom giant may be required to pay Sprint for customers that the latter lost due to the 5GE ad.

Probably the more serious part of this issue is if AT&T loses and it will be required to spend again for a second advertising campaign that will correct the false statements the previous ad delivered.

It has yet to be revealed how AT&T will handle this ordeal but The Verge reported that the iPhones that showed the 5GE network is the same LTE network, with the same speed service. However, it came with a new logo that could have confused users.

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