Did AT&T trick your business into paying for fake 5G? Sprint lawsuit says yes
Sprint is suing AT&T over branding changes that portrays existing 4G LTE networks as "5G Evolution," according to a Reuters report. In January, AT&T began rolling out software updates to AT&T-branded smartphones changing the "LTE" icon to say "5G E," as part of the carrier's attempt to blur lines between two fundamentally incompatible mobile network standards, a move that prompted T-Mobile to mock AT&T on Twitter following the stunt.
iPhones are not immune to this marketing ploy either, as the Reuters report notes "smartphones running on both Android and Apple's iOS platforms are sporting '5G E' for AT&T customers, even though those phones are not equipped to support 5G." Sprint's market research found that AT&T's deceptive ploy is working, as "54 percent of AT&T's consumers believed their '5G E' network is the same as or better than a 5G network and 43 percent said if they buy an AT&T phone today, it would be capable of running on 5G," Reuters reported.
SEE: 5G Research Report 2019: The enterprise is eager to adopt, despite cost concerns and availability (Tech Pro Research)
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told CNBC that "we feel very comfortable with how we characterize the new service," citing increases in speed that are "an evolutionary step to 5G," and that "we are being very clear with our customers that this an evolutionary step."
An AT&T spokesperson previously confirmed to TechRepublic that its "5G Evolution" is built on LTE Advanced technology. LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro offer features like 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM, which allow for Gigabit-level speeds. These are industry standards available to all mobile network operators. Of note, LTE stands for "Long Term Evolution," indicating the expectation that such upgrades would be deployed by mobile network operators throughout the lifespan of the LTE standard.
For comparison, the 5G NR standard allows for data transmission rates up to 20 Gbps, though presently this is a theoretical maximum based on laboratory testing of proof-of-concept hardware, and is unlikely to be available on initial rollouts of 5G NR networks. 5G is not an incremental or backward-compatible update to existing standards, is separate from 4G standards like LTE or WiMAX, and cannot be delivered to existing phones, tablets, or wireless modems by means of tower upgrades or software updates.
For an overview of 5G networks, when and where 5G networks are being deployed, when true 5G smartphones are being released, and how businesses and consumers can benefit from 5G technologies, check out TechRepublic's cheat sheet for 5G mobile networks and for 5G smartphones.
AT&T Corporate Communications AVP Jim Greer provided this statement to TechRepublic:
TechRepublic is unable to independently verify these claims.