Verizon and AT&T have officially managed to silence T-Mobile's 5G hype machine
The US wireless landscape is... complicated, and if it seemed difficult to objectively choose the nation's best carrier back in the 4G LTE days, the existence of all these different types of 5G technologies has made it even harder to name just one stateside champion of the industry.
Of course, that's what analytics firms like RootMetrics, Opensignal, Ookla, and umlaut are for, but as scientific and thorough as their regular reports might seem, the methodology used in some of that research can occasionally be... imperfect, leading to highly debatable conclusions.
United by a common enemy
That's where the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) comes in, ruling on a T-Mobile appeal to a recommendation made by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs several months ago.
What does the advertising industry have to do with the research conducted by the aforementioned third-party analytics companies? Well, in case you haven't noticed, US mobile network operators have made a habit over the last few years of bombastically promoting the findings of those reports tracking the progress of each individual carrier.
T-Mobile probably likes to do that more often and more emphatically than both its arch-rivals, and while they don't always show it, said arch-rivals are evidently frequently unhappy with that advertising behavior.
United by said unhappiness, Verizon and AT&T (separately) challenged T-Mobile's "most reliable 5G network" claim in two cases that were ultimately consolidated and judged together. The hyperbolic advertising statement was based on an April 2021 evaluation run by umlaut, which the NARB found to be "faulty."
As such, T-Mo is once again "recommended" to stop flaunting its alleged 5G network reliability supremacy "according to umlaut", which the "Un-carrier" plans to do despite not agreeing with the NARB's assessment.
Does T-Mobile have the most reliable 5G network in the US?
Well, it's complicated. As you can imagine, an independent non-profit organization overseeing the self-regulatory body of the US advertising industry has no authority or expertise to judge the quality of a mobile network.
But both the NAD and NARB believe umlaut did not properly separate its network reliability analysis from speed and coverage evaluations of T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T's 5G signals. While the research tackled one key component of the reliability metric, a second and just as important component was seemingly neglected.
This type of ad is no longer kosher.
Specifically, the April 2021 report in question apparently did not "attempt to assess task completion", thus arriving to an insufficiently supported conclusion. Basically, umlaut only considered how good T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T are at finding a 5G signal and not also at maintaining said signal.
To be perfectly clear, this ruling doesn't mean Verizon and AT&T's 5G network reliability is superior to that of T-Mobile. What it simply means is that there's not enough data in that particular report from last year to support the advertising claim that's now effectively banned.
Reliability just so happens to be the only one of three sections where Verizon beats T-Mobile in the latest 5G evaluation published by RootMetrics last week, while Opensignal's relevant research focuses on other key aspects of the user experience.
This is still allowed.
Meanwhile, everyone seems to agree on the nation's 5G speed champion, so Magenta can at least keep its commercials and marketing materials hyping its network as the fastest out there intact... for the time being.
Keep in mind that T-Mo was also "recommended" to refrain from calling itself the "leader in 5G" a few months back, even though that's a label most experts and pundits seem to wholeheartedly agree with.
Things that are NOT allowed: