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AT&T claims its customers love 5GE

In response to rival US operator Sprint suing it for deception over its 5G Evolution move, AT&T has insisted it’s just thinking of the punters.

“We understand why our competitors don’t like what we are doing, but our customers love it,” opened the AT&T statement. “We introduced 5G Evolution more than two years ago, clearly defining it as an evolutionary step to standards-based 5G. 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. That’s what 5G Evolution is, and we are delighted to deliver it to our customers.”

Hmm. It’s hard to argue with the assumption that phone users like to know what kind of network performance they can reasonably expect at a given time and location. If you see a little ‘E’ or even ‘H’ at the top of your phone then you probably shouldn’t expect a web page to load anytime soon and video streaming is definitely out of the question. Seeing ‘4G’ up there, however, says its smartphone data party time.

AT&T seems to want to indicate to its customers when they can expect bandwidth an order of magnitude greater than regular, vanilla 4G, which is fair enough, but the way it has gone about it does seem somewhat deceptive. Why not go for ‘4G+’ or (shudder) ‘4.5G’? The decision to package faster 4G as nearly 5G feels like a reach and it’s highly debatable how ‘clearly defined’ this designation is to its customers and the wider market.

“We will fight this lawsuit while continuing to deploy 5G Evolution in addition to standards-based mobile 5G,” continued the statement.  “Customers want and deserve to know when they are getting better speeds. Sprint will have to reconcile its arguments to the FCC that it cannot deploy a widespread 5G network without T-Mobile while simultaneously claiming in this suit to be launching ‘legitimate 5G technology imminently.’”

That last bit seems to be a veiled threat that persisting with this suit may complicate Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile US. How imminent Sprint’s launch of ‘legitimate’ 5G is seems incidental to the matter of whether or not AT&T has indulged in deliberately deceptive behavior, so this feel like a FUD move. If Sprint does win this case it could set an important consumer protection precedent so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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