T-Mobile not allowed to say that it is "the most reliable 5G network"

T-Mobile not allowed to say that it is "the most reliable 5G network"
The National Advertising Division, aka the NAD, (via Fierce Wireless), recommends that T-Mobile be banned from calling itself "the most reliable 5G network" in advertisements. The claim is based on testing done by umlaut, a third-party firm that benchmarks mobile service from wireless providers. The company said that from April 12th to September 26th of this year, it collected more than 1 billion samples from 200,000 5G users, and with this data, umlaut said that "T-Mobile has the most reliable 5G network."

AT&T started the ball rolling by complaining about T-Mobile's claim of being "the most reliable 5G network"

The NAD is part of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and is the advertising industry's self-regulatory organization. AT&T was the T-Mobile competitor that brought this matter to the attention of the NAD. T-Mobile called itself "the most reliable 5G network" in two television commercials and internet advertising. This isn't anything new as wireless carriers often complain to the NAD about rivals' advertising.

The NAD issues recommendations that do not carry the force of law. T-Mobile has said that it will appeal the ruling. The umlaut data that backs its claims are taken from handsets using software found in apps installed from the Google Play Store. The organization noted that umlaut's testing consists of two coverage metrics and one speed metric. The NAD went on to say, "While NAD agreed that speed and coverage are important to consider when talking about 5G network reliability, speed and coverage alone cannot support a reliability claim."

T-Mobile replied that NAD precedent allows it to use third-party "accolades" as long as it is based on legitimate testing and the ad includes the basis for the accolade. But the NAD said that even if that is the case, it still needs to conduct an inquiry. The statement it made says, "while NAD has permitted wireless providers to advertise third-party awards for network performance as long as they are properly qualified, it does not do so without further inquiry. NAD carefully reviews the methodology for any third-party awards to ensure there is a reasonable basis for the underlying claim."

AT&T's argument was that the metrics measured by umlaut are not "an appropriate set of metrics for assessing 5G network reliability," the NAD said in its decision. The carrier also argued that RootMetrics uses a better system to help it measure "true reliability" and its metrics offer a better way to measure reliability while giving a truer picture of what the average customer experiences.

T-Mobile, for its part, has been complaining about AT&T and Verizon's use of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). Previously, the carrier said that DSS allows "5G service to run simultaneously with 4G LTE on multiple spectrum bands. This new technology gives Verizon the ability to dynamically use its full portfolio of current spectrum resources to serve both 4G and 5G customers."

The NAD says that by calling itself the most reliable 5G network, T-Mobile says that subscribers can access its 5G network and stay connected "for their intended purpose or to complete their task." But the data used by umlaut was not a "good fit" to support a claim of being the most reliable 5G network because the data used came from 5G and non-5G networks.

As a result, the NAD recommended that T-Mobile discontinue any and all express and implied claims that T-Mobile is the "most reliable 5G network" according to umlaut. In announcing that it will appeal the decision, T-Mobile said that it is disappointed with the NAD's ruling and added that "T-Mobile’s 5G network is the most reliable 5G network in the United States."

The carrier added that "like other similarly situated advertisers, T-Mobile should be able to advertise this independent award. Because T-Mobile strongly disagrees with NAD’s recommendation that it not do so, it will appeal NAD’s decision."
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