A self-regulating body set up by the advertising industry slapped down AT&T’s strategy of conning mobile subscribers into thinking that they’re getting 5G service when they’re really connected to a 4G network. The National Advertising Review Board (NARB), which is run by the Better Business Bureau, concluded that AT&T’s decision to slap a “5G Evolution” label or, more confusingly, a 5GE icon, on its LTE service is misleading and that “consumers may well interpret “Evolution” in the challenged claims as signifying that AT&T’s technology has already evolved into 5G”. Which it hasn’t yet, and won’t for many years to come.
NARB recommended that AT&T pull the offending ads. AT&T isn’t obligated to follow the recommendation, and it didn’t.
A Lightreading.com article by Mike Dano reports that AT&T will drop the offending ads, but will still display the deceptive 5GE icon on phones that are connected to its 4G LTE network…
“AT&T respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the panel majority,” the operator said in a statement to Light Reading. “AT&T’s customers nationwide continue to benefit from dramatically superior speeds and performance that its current network provides. As a supporter of the self-regulatory process, however, AT&T will comply with the NARB’s decision.”
But AT&T said the NARB’s recommendation only applies to its advertising and therefore will not affect the one element that really matters: Its service icon.
AT&T’s justification for the 5GE branding is that its 4G network is so wicked fast that it might as well be 5G. That’s not true, as independent testing has shown. But that’s not something that weighs heavily on the minds of AT&T’s corporate brand managers, or that will be obvious to the vast majority of its customers.
It should be noted that AT&T is not the only mobile carriers making dubious advertising claims. A quick look at recent NARB decisions shows that T-Mobile (which filed the original complaint against AT&T) and Verizon have likewise attracted its disapproval.