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Sprint sues AT&T over its "5G E" marketing

No, the 4G phones haven't suddenly willed themselves into 5G devices. Rather, AT&T has decided to start marketing its current LTE Advanced network as "5G E" because it says it's part of the evolution to 5G.

Driving the news: What had been industrywide grumbling turned into a lawsuit Friday as Sprint sued AT&T over this branding. Sprint also wants an injunction to get AT&T to stop using the term to apply to anything that isn't real 5G.

Why it matters: Real 5G networks will start showing up this year, including on AT&T's network, in select cities. But true 5G only works with new phones designed for it and in the small number of cities whose networks are updated.

  • AT&T's faux 5G, meanwhile, works with a number of existing phones and in a broader range of cities.

Our thought bubble: This type of marketing is bound to cause confusion. It's hard to see how anyone benefits other than AT&T, and perhaps Apple, which almost certainly won't have a real 5G iPhone this year.

Flashback: A similar thing happened during the advent of 4G, with AT&T and T-Mobile labeling a faster version of 3G networks as 4G.

Go deeper: When 5G will arrive