As exciting as the roll out of 5G is, the reality is that most consumers will have to wait quite a while before they find themselves in an area with 5G support. T-Mobile, as a quick example, recently announced that its 5G service won’t launch until the latter half of 2019.
In the interim, AT&T has taken a somewhat sneaky approach with respect to 5G. In a move that can appropriately be categorized as deceitful and misleading, AT&T has started replacing the 4G icon on select devices with a 5G E symbol, a symbol which refers to 5G Evolution. And what is 5G E, exactly? Well, AT&T describes it as “an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G.”
While users in areas that support 5G E can certainly enjoy faster network speeds, it’s simply not 5G. AT&T’s strategy in this regard, not surprisingly, has generated a lot of backlash from consumers and even other carriers.
Last month, for instance, Sprint sued AT&T on the basis that their 5G E icon gives the carrier an unfair advantage insofar that it misleads consumers into believing that they’re actually enjoying true 5G speeds.
With that lawsuit ongoing, Sprint recently decided to up the ante and take matters into the court of public opinion with a full-page ad in The New York Times.
The ad reads in part:
Dear wireless consumers,
While Sprint is working hard to deliver mobile 5G and the first 5G smartphone in the US, AT&T is hard at work trying to convince you that they already won the race to 5G with something they call “5G Evolution.” That is simply untrue.
Don’t be fooled. 5G Evolution isn’t new or true 5G. It is fake 5G.
They would love for you to believe they are different… better. The truth is AT&T is simply offering customers a nationwide 4G LTE network just like Sprint and all the other major wireless carriers. It’s not 5G.
We filed a lawsuit against AT&T demanding that they immediately end their false and deceptive marketing campaign.
AT&T seems to be delighted by the depth and breadth of their deception. AT&T admitted that the company’s 5G E advertising is strictly a narrative to outline how they want the world to work—not a reflection of today’s reality.
It’s appalling to see how delighted @ATT seems to be with their “5Ge” deception, and @Sprint isn’t standing for it – that's why we took out an ad in the @NYTimes! https://t.co/Nh7ru88s5B pic.twitter.com/0rbzWjQHXq
— Marcelo Claure (@marceloclaure) March 11, 2019
AT&T, meanwhile, has indicated that it has no intention of reversing course, despite the backlash its decision has created.