John 8:7–‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…’

Last week Sprint filed a federal lawsuit against competitor AT&T alleging that the latter’s “5GE branding” is false advertising crafted to deceive customers as to what 5G is. AT&T’s 5G Evolution terms describes a network equipped with 4X4 MIMO, 256 QAM and multi-channel carrier aggregation–all features of the 3GPP’s LTE Advanced standard as opposed to the 5G New Radio standard.

In the suit, Sprint correctly points out that all four major U.S. carriers offer LTE Advanced, sometimes dubbed gigabit LTE, and it’s not unique to AT&T despite AT&T recently working with Android OEMs and Apple to activate “5GE” indicators on some handsets connected to its LTE Advanced network.

In its lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Sprint alleges that “calling its network ‘5GE’…does not make it a 5G network and instead deceives customers into believing it is something that it is not. The truth is that the network AT&T advertises as ‘5GE’ offers consumers the same service  as its 4G LTEAdvanced service, which was already available to AT&T customers and has been deployed by all four national carriers. This technology is indisputably not 5G. Adding an ‘E’ or the word ‘Evolution’ to 5G does not mitigate the deception. AT&T is advertising its network as ‘5G’ and consumers wrongly believe that AT&T is offering 5G technology.”

It’s important to note that AT&T has deployed a 5G NR-based network in parts of 12 markets with a mobile hot spot as the launch device and plans to offer standards-based handsets that support 5G NR at millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz frequencies this year.

But, in an industry marked by massive marketing hype cycles particularly during generational technology shifts, is what AT&T doing now markedly different from what its competitors have done before? In short, no.

Let’s work backwards. Verizon is currently selling a 5G Home service that provides fixed wireless home broadband service in parts of four markets. This offering is based on the Verizon Technical Forum standard, focused on the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands, which the carrier developed in-house with assistance from partners Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung. While Verizon has made clear it will upgrade 5G Home to be 5G NR compliant, it isn’t today. So if the benchmark is 5G NR, what Verizon is billing as 5G isn’t 5G; granted it’s more aligned with 5G NR than LTE Advanced, but still…

Now to Sprint. Sprint acquired Nextel in 2005 and, at the time, Nextel was was testing various IP-based mobile broadband technologies, including F lash-OFDM, TDD-UMTS, HSDPA, also referred to as HSPA+, and WiMAX. Sprint would later acquire Clearwire, which was also working on WiMax. Promising speeds in the ballpark of 10 Mbps, Sprint in 2007 launched WiMax under the brand name Xohm. Although not quite up to the goal set by the then-under development 4G LTE standard, Sprint saw WiMax as such a significant improvement over 3G that it began calling the service 4G. Sprint shut down WiMax in April 2016.

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere has repeatedly referred to AT&T’s 5GE branding as “bullshit,” while also regularly knocking Verizon’s 5G Home service. But is the “Un-carrier,” known for its bold, millennial-focused marketing, without sin?

High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA or HSPA+) comes from 3GPP’s Release 5 and has also been referred to as 3.5G and 3G+, or, in the case of T-Mobile US, 4G. Similar to Sprint’s billing of WiMax as 4G, HSPA+ was certainly an improvement on 3G but not consistent with 4G LTE.

In an October 2010 press release regarding a branded device launch, then-T-Mobile VP of Product Management Andrew Sherrard said, “Taking advantage of the 4G speeds on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, the new myTouch delivers a faster and more compelling experience than most competing smartphones on the market.”

At the time ZDNet reported, “The catch is that no one considers HSPA as 4G—except T-Mobile.”

As Sherif Hanna, formerly one of Qualcomm’s primary public-facing 5G spokespeople, put it on Twitter: “Hey if @ATT can label Gigabit LTE as ‘5Ge’, then can carriers who are really rolling out 5G label it as ‘6Ge’? It will never end.”


The post HSPA+, WiMax, 5GTF and 5GE: A brief history of misleading marketing appeared first on RCR Wireless News.