The Fight for “5G”

Courtesy of Tech Rader

Written by Ben Rapp

Today smartphones are used daily for countless tasks, and are essential to American life. It is no wonder that people want all the best devices possible with the quickest speed they can get. Consequently, major carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon differentiate themselves through claims of coverage, plan offerings and price.

The next big advance in cellular technology is expected to be 5G (5th generation of mobile technology). Unlike previous technology, 5G will introduce faster speeds and better reliability. Although 5G has been a popular topic in the news in recent months and customers are excited about it, it is not currently available to the public.

Despite the lack of a functioning 5G network, many companies are using the term as a marketing buzzword. During its UNPACKED event in February, Samsung announced a 5G-ready version of their flagship phone, the Galaxy S10, in addition to a standard version. Key word: “ready”. The Galaxy S10 5G will have the capability to function on a 5G network when the network is completed, but when 5G will come to fruition is unknown.

Another company that took advantage of the excitement surrounding 5G was AT&T. AT&T has started branding their advanced 4G networks as “5G Evolution” or “5GE”. This 5GE tag AT&T is using can be confusing for customers. In a survey commissioned by Sprint, 54 percent of consumers believed 5GE was the same or better than 5G and 43 percent believed AT&T phones purchased today were 5G capable. Neither of these claims are true. In truth, according to Gizmodo, 5GE simply offers 4G LTE speeds– nothing close to what 5G will be in the near future.

In response to AT&T’s false claims, Sprint filed a suit claiming AT&T is damaging the reputation of 5G and stealing customers by means of false advertising. Sprint is asking for an injunction– essentially a motion to force AT&T to stop using the name– and damages due to loss of sales as a result of this claim.

T-Mobile took a more humorous approach to combat AT&T’s actions. It posted a video on Twitter in which a person places a little post-it with “9G” written on it, captioning it “didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating”.

It will be very interesting to see how Sprint’s lawsuit plays out in court, especially since there seems to be precedent. In 2012, AT&T and T-Mobile were sued for branding 3G-only phones with a 4G label. This case ended with a decision that the “4G” name could also apply to the advanced 3G technology. Whether the courts agree this time around, the public will have to wait and see.

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