The T-Mobile vs Verizon 5G war rages on with mixed NAD verdict

The T-Mobile vs Verizon 5G war rages on with mixed NAD verdict
T-Mobile might have been the nation's third and even fourth-largest mobile network operator for a fairly long time, but its Sprint acquisition was enough to leave AT&T behind in terms of subscriber numbers, and with the help of some unrivaled 5G expansion work, the "Un-carrier" has set its sights on overtaking Verizon as well to dominate the entire US wireless industry.

While it's definitely hard to deny many of T-Mo's incredible achievements and pioneering efforts in the 5G development field, it's also pretty easy to get carried away and exaggerate said accomplishments for advertising purposes, especially in relation to the competition. 

When it comes to commercials and other publicity stunts targeting rivals, Magenta is essentially unmatched, but while it can certainly be entertaining to see the number two wireless service provider stateside berate the market's gold and bronze medalists, these verbal attacks, quips, and shenanigans are not always grounded in reality. That's where the National Advertising Division (NAD) comes in today, responding to a Verizon-filed complaint by recommending the modification or discontinuance of several 5G speed and coverage claims.

T-Mobile's 5G network "reliability" is the biggest problem

According to the NAD, there are a lot of good things that can be said about T-Mobile's fast-growing 5G network without misleading or outright lying to customers, but the company's "express and implied claims" that the network is "more reliable than competing 4G or 5G networks" are insufficiently supported by factual evidence.

While T-Mo essentially tried to argue that coverage and reliability are the same thing, the National Advertising Division didn't buy that explanation, recommending the carrier stop comparing its service to competitors on such a vague metric.

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Interestingly, no problem was found with either Magenta's general 5G coverage or 5G speed assertions, which are considered factual and reliable. That means the mobile network operator can continue to crow about its 5G availability superiority over Verizon, as well as its speed gains compared to both its own 4G and its rivals' 4G services.

Because the NAD is no fan of hyperbole, we shouldn't be surprised that T-Mobile is also asked to modify its pompous suggestion that 5G "will change our lives in really big ways." Said hyperbolic claim was featured in an ad starring no other than Bill Nye, which also contains a misleading demonstration of the limited availability of Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband signal that will need to be revised.

Even more problems that T-Mobile intends to appeal

Clearly, Verizon filed a pretty extensive complaint with the NAD, and while the independent self-regulating division of BBB National Programs did find T-Mobile not guilty of a few of the most important accusations, the list of exaggerations and dirty advertising tricks also extends to Magenta's oft-used animated coverage map.

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This gives a false impression of "universal" 5G availability when in fact T-Mobile's 4G coverage area remains significantly larger. As such, Magenta may need to modify the "execution of the challenged coverage maps" to help consumers better understand the sometimes substantial differences between 4G and 5G coverage.

Last but certainly not least, the National Advertising Division is recommending T-Mobile discontinue several promotional videos altogether. These were focused on comparing the "Un-carrier's" 5G performance with that of Verizon in Miami's Hard Rock Stadium ahead of the Super Bowl, misrepresenting the competition's "typical" speeds and suggesting its 5G network "consistently" provided no signal loss, decrease in signal strength, or reversion to 4G LTE service, which was not and is in fact not true today either.

Unsurprisingly, T-Mo is not taking these "recommendations" lying down, instead planning to challenge every single one of the NAD's unfavorable conclusions with the National Advertising Review Board. That's the same thing that AT&T and Verizon did when found guilty of similar trickery, and if the history of those appeals is any indication, T-Mobile is unlikely to reverse the NAD's decisions.

As always, the lesson is to take all commercials with a grain of salt and rely primarily on independent speed tests and coverage reports when comparing America's top wireless service providers.

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