Sprint & AT&T reach a settlement over 5GE

via Flickr © Beth Cortez-Neavel ( CC0 1.0 Universal )

via Flickr © Beth Cortez-Neavel ( CC0 1.0 Universal )

  • Terms aren’t disclosed and neither side thus far has revealed any details
  • But it looks as though AT&T will continue to use 5GE
  • And that the misleading 5G marketing games will continue

Perhaps proving that there’s a limit to how far you can go with misleading advertising before it comes back to bop you on the head, AT&T appears to have agreed an amicable resolution of its dispute with Sprint on AT&T’s use of 5G Evolution (5GE) to describe its completely non-5G LTE service. But as we don’t know the full terms of the settlement, it may mean the opposite and imply that marketing that misleads is all part of the fun.

In February Sprint launched a suit maintaining that the AT&T marketing claim that it had launched a service called 5GE was not only factually incorrect - it not being 5G or a version thereof - but that the claim was materially affecting Sprint’s business. Sprint was going after damages.  

Now it suddenly appears that while the fireworks are over, neither side is giving out any details of the terms of the settlement.  

According to Law360, AT&T intends to keep on using ‘5G Evolution’ in its marketing programmes - the show will go on.

So logic suggest that the most likely settlement probably involves AT&T clarifying in some way (perhaps with undertakings about its future marketing) where 5GE fits into the scheme of things and in recognition of that it will continue with the 5GE branding.

In fact well after the initial uproar when AT&T announced its 5GE idea it rowed back quite a bit and issued a major explanation about what it was up to, explaining that 5G was more a journey than a destination and so 5GE was a staging post -  that sort of thing.

The irony is that with AT&T now boasting 19 cities with ‘real’ 5G coverage, it’s finding it  difficult to capitalise marketing-wise on its progress without adding yet more confusion.

While those 19 5G cities put it well ahead of Verizon, there are major problems.  First, as it has no 5G smartphones yet it can’t really talk about service. And secondly, it’s clearly constrained by how it can go about trumpeting ‘real’ 5G  without having to walk back and re-explain the 5GE albatross now firmly wrapped around its neck. Potential customers will ask, “Why do I have a 5G E tag on my phone in my city, when you say you haven’t launched 5G here yet?”

As a result AT&T must surely be wondering if the 5GE kerfuffle was actually worth it. When you stack the 5GE controversy on top of the pervasive 5G hype being advanced by just about every part of the industry, customers won’t just be confused, they are likely to be angry when it becomes clear that 5G’s impact has been hugely exaggerated.

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