AT&T challenges T-Mobile's 'best 5G network' advertising claim and wins

AT&T challenges T-Mobile's 'best 5G network' advertising claim and wins
Hyperbolic use of language that's not always in line with reality or objectively verifiable might be the oldest trick in the marketing playbook, but the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs is sure doing everything in its power to try to keep the top three US wireless service providers from overselling and misrepresenting their networks in general and 5G strengths in particular.

After recommending Verizon stop claiming it was "building the most powerful 5G experience for America" last year, which isn't demonstrably true right now either, the NAD is taking issue (at AT&T's request) with a number of bombastic statements made by T-Mobile in a series of TV and radio commercials already discontinued back in July 2020.

T-Mobile can't prove its 5G speed and reliability superiority... yet


Most notably, T-Mo tried to sell its rapidly expanding 5G network as "the best" out there while also alleging it offered the "best prices" for 5G service in all of the United States. Furthermore, Magenta is advised to modify its "most reliable 5G network" claim essentially deriving from that high-profile Sprint merger completed almost a year ago.

Although many analysts strongly believe said union between the nation's third and fourth-largest mobile carriers (as of the beginning of 2020) leaves the "New T-Mobile" ideally positioned for long-term 5G dominance, the National Advertising Division expects (after presumably consulting with some of the same specialists) the "complete integration" of the T-Mobile and Sprint networks to occur anywhere between three and six years down the line.


As such, the implied imminent availability of the "aspirational" benefits resulting from this merger have been interpreted as misleading. In other words, Magenta could well be developing a 5G super-network capable of outshining its rivals beyond a shadow of a doubt in terms of speed and reliability at some point in the future, but we're not quite there yet. Nor can T-Mobile guarantee that moment will indeed come soon.

Speaking of guarantees, the "best price" claim must go away precisely because T-Mo can't make a firm and reliable commitment that will remain the case "both in the near and remote future." As long as the "Un-carrier" is unable to provide guarantees the vast majority of its customers would "always" pay less than those subscribed to the competition, said claim is considered hyperbolic and potentially misleading.

Is NAD going a little too far?


Of course, always is a long time, and while different mobile analytics companies have named different 5G winners in their latest reports based on different performance and reliability indicators, everyone seems to agree T-Mobile's prices are simply and objectively better than what its rivals can offer. Especially after the introduction of a relatively affordable new maxed-out plan.


Generally speaking, that's been the situation for quite some time now, so it feels a little excessive to strip that away from Magenta's advertising efforts. 

Unsurprisingly, the "Un-carrier" doesn't agree with any of the NAD's most recent conclusions, nonetheless having every intention to comply with the Division's recommendations, as highlighted by the aforementioned July 2020 halt of the challenged ads.

While AT&T may have won this particular battle, the advertising war is undoubtedly set to rage on, both on the conventional TV, radio, and online fronts and in this unconventional arena mediated by the aforementioned independent self-regulation arm of BBB National Programs. AT&T itself fell victim to several attacks initiated by both T-Mobile and Verizon since the inception of US 5G (and 5G E) networks, with the latter two carriers constantly going for each other's throats as well on various topics and exaggerated marketing claims.

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