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Earlier this year AT&T was finally castigated by the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) for its insistence on misleading consumers with its bogus “5G E” network that suggested the existing of 5G cellular service where the carrier was only offering a (very) modestly enhanced 4G LTE network — one that didn’t even outperform many of its rivals.
Now it looks like the National Advertising Division (NAD), the “lower court” that originally addressed the AT&T complaint, is setting its sights on Verizon for making misleading claims about its actual 5G network.
The crux of the issue comes from two new television commercials that have been released by Verizon that tout its rollout of 5G service in cities across the U.S. which could lead customers to believe that its 5G coverage is much wider and its network is much faster than it is in reality.
As a result, the NAD is recommending that Verizon discontinue claims that suggest its 5G service is both “widely available” in cities across the country and that it’s “broadly and readily accessible” in those cities where it has been launched.
Verizon’s 5G Rollout
The problem in this case stems from the fact that Verizon is taking a very different approach to rolling out 5G as compared to its competitors. While other carriers like T-Mobile have focused on a widespread, national rollout of the slower sub-6GHz technology — a 600MHz network in T-Mobile’s case — Verizon has focused entirely on the much faster mmWave 5G.
Unfortunately, since it operates at considerably higher frequencies — up in the 30–300GHz spectrum — mmWave has a much shorter range than sub-6GHz 5G. This means that so far Verizon has only been able to deploy it in the core of a few major U.S. cities, since it requires a lot of transceivers to be placed in very close proximity.
One of the “challenged claims” that the NAD provides as an example is Verizon’s statement that “People from midtown Manhattan to downtown Denver can experience what your 5G can deliver,” which it says “falsely implies” that the Verizon 5G service is broadly available across the country. The NAD also cites visual images within the TV ads that suggest that customers will be able to access Verizon’s 5G network “in the specific locations its engineers are depicted to be standing (and representative locations like them).”
In reality, of course, Verizon’s mmWave 5G service has been rolled out in midtown Manhattan and downtown Denver, but not necessarily from midtown Manhattan to downtown Denver. In other words, if you’re in the core of either of those cities, you probably will be able to get 5G service on Verizon, but stray out of those downtown areas, and you’ll be back on the carrier’s 4G LTE network.
The NAD is also challenging the claims that Verizon is making about the speed of its 5G network, stating that the ads imply that the network typically delivers much faster speeds than Verizon is able to substantiate. For example, one of the commercials states “almost 2 gigs here in Los Angeles,” and yet it provides no evidence showing how the network will perform under typical consumer use, nor any disclaimers as to how expected results may vary.
Perhaps the most ironic thing about this is that Verizon should really have no need to exaggerate when it comes to speeds, as recent tests have shown that the 500Mbps+ speeds that the carrier actually does offer on its mmWave 5G network totally eclipses that of other U.S. carriers by a huge margin, with Sprint coming in at a distant second at just over 100mbps, while AT&T and T-Mobile are well below that mark, due to their much slower sub-6GHz networks.
Of course, these are average speeds nationwide, and AT&T has also begun opening up its mmWave network for consumers, but in this case Verizon has the advantage on the spec sheets since there are no slower 5G speed tests to drag down its average — every Verizon speed test has to be conducted on its ultra-fast mmWave 5G network.
For its part, however, Verizon has shown far less intransigence than AT&T did with its “5G E” branding, stating that while it doesn’t agree with every part of the NAD’s decision, it will comply with the agency’s recommendations in keeping with its commitment to the “self-regulatory process” and the “transparency of customer messaging.”