Verizon Told To Revise 'First To 5G' Ads

An ad industry watchdog has told Verizon to discontinue or revise three television ads touting a 5G network.

One of the spots boasted that Verizon was “first to 5G,” while another said the company was building the “first and only 5G ultra wideband network.”

Those ads “convey the message that Verizon has achieved the important milestone of deploying the first mobile wireless 5G network,” the National Advertising Division, a unit administered by the Better Business Bureau, wrote in an opinion made available Thursday.

The commercials aired as wireless carriers and industry observers were increasingly discussing the benefits of 5G -- the next generation of wireless technology. But no carriers were offering mobile 5G service when the ads ran. Verizon currently offers 5G service for homes, and recently said it plans to roll out 5G mobile service in a few cities in April.

The NAD recommended that Verizon either stop running the ads or modify them “to make clear that Verizon is referring to its build-out of 5G technology for the future, or its release of 5G Home.”

The decision came in response to a challenge to the ads by AT&T -- which itself is facing a lawsuit by Sprint over “5GE” branding on smartphones.

Verizon argued that its ad campaign merely “expresses pride in its technological achievements.”

One of the challenged ads features former Ameritech president Bob Barnett as he made the first commercial cell phone call in 1983. Verizon engineer John Foley says in a voiceover that he was present for that call.

“I’m proud that I was part of that first call,” Foley continues. “And I’m proud that I’m here now, as we build America’s first and only 5G ultra wideband network, with unprecedented wireless capacity, that will not only allow for phones to be connected but almost everything, transforming how we all live, once again.”

The NAD said in its decision that Verizon “is rightly proud” of its history, but that the ad blurred past and present tenses in a way that conveyed 5G technology is currently available.

The watchdog said Verizon plans to appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board.

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