AT&T ads that boast about the company's “5G Evolution” service mislead consumers and should be discontinued, an ad industry watchdog has recommended.
“The claims refer to a level of technology, 5G, which its '5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G,' service does not deliver,” the self-regulatory group National Advertising Division, a unit administered by the Better Business Bureau, said in a decision released this week.
5G (fifth-generation) networks promise much faster speeds than current 4G networks, but the technology is only in limited use.
AT&T's website describes the company's "5G Evolution" network as the "first step on the road to 5G," and says its 5G E network can offer downloads of up to twice as fast as "standard" LTE networks -- but only in select areas, and with "capable devices."
The National Advertising Division's decision stems from a challenge to the ads by the competing carrier T-Mobile, which argued that AT&T's ads conveyed that its network was “in a completely different class than competitor networks,” according to the watchdog's opinion.
The self-regulatory group sided with T-Mobile, writing that the phrase “5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G” conveys either that the network uses 5G technology, or that it uses “a level of technology above 4G LTE service.”
The group's opinion marks the latest fallout for AT&T over its attempt to market its network as “5GE” and “5G Evolution.” Earlier this year, Sprint sued AT&T in federal court over ads that used the terminology, alleging they were deceptive because AT&T's “5G Evolution” network was actually a 4G network. (That lawsuit settled on confidential terms in April.)
AT&T plans to appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board, according to the opinion.
T-Mobile also challenged other AT&T claims, including that its network was “America’s best wireless network according to America’s biggest test.”
AT&T countered that Global Wireless Solutions concluded after a test that AT&T was the “best” network.
The National Advertising Division sided with AT&T on that issue, ruling that the ads made clear that the claim was based on a single test.
“Referring to a single test qualifies the claim,” the watchdog wrote. “It acknowledges the role that a testing company plays in evaluating the network.”
Earlier this year, the watchdog also 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.”