T-Mobile Can't Brag Of 'Most Reliable' 5G Network, Ad Watchdog Says

T-Mobile should not boast in ads that it offers the "most reliable” 5G network, an appellate panel of the ad industry's self-regulatory program has ruled.

In a decision released Thursday, the National Advertising Review Board (a unit of the BBB National Programs) said the wireless carrier could not base its “most reliable” claim on a report by measurement company umlaut, because umlaut only examined network speed and coverage.

The ruling upheld a decision issued in November by the National Advertising Division of the BBB National Programs. The opinions stemmed from challenges by AT&T and Verizon to T-Mobile's “most reliable” claim.

The appellate panel said it agreed with the National Advertising Division that a network's reliability differs from its speed or coverage area.

Instead, reliability hinges on whether people can use the network long enough to finish an online activity, according to the watchdog.

“Mobile carriers routinely promote wireless networks in terms of coverage, speed, and reliability,” the panel members wrote. “This practice further confirms that, to the reasonable consumer, reliability is a metric that is distinct from coverage and speed.”

T-Mobile is hardly the only carrier to make questionable claims about its broadband service, or to see its ads challenged by competitors. The self-regulatory watchdog has considered many of those ads, and issued numerous opinions critical of broadband claims by Comcast, Spectrum, Verizon, AT&T and others.

In many of those cases, the companies boasted of offering the “best” or “fastest” networks, but were short on objective data to back up those boasts.  

Separate from the self-regulatory group's opinions about broadband ads, the Federal Communications Commission also has some ideas about the carriers' descriptions of their offerings. The agency recently voted to consider a proposal that would require carriers to use a standardized format, comparable to a nutrition label, to disclose information about pricing, speeds, and traffic management practices.

The agency plans to hold a public hearing on that proposal on March 11.

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