Watchdog knocks Verizon’s 5G ads, says best results aren’t typical

Watchdog knocks Verizon’s 5G ads, says best results aren’t typical

Only days after Verizon launched a slower “5G Nationwide” network to fill the massive coverage gaps of its faster but hard-to-find “5G Ultra-Wideband” service, an industry watchdog told the carrier to change recent ads implying that users will typically see high band speeds across the United States. The move comes only months after the watchdog, BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD), first called out Verizon for misleading customers regarding its 5G coverage, and demanded disclosures regarding the limited availability of its service.

Misleading marketing has cast shadows over the U.S. launches of 5G cellular technology, as carriers have rushed out services that barely deliver on the 5G standard’s transformative potential. Verizon’s Ultra-Wideband (UWB) service is extremely fast but generally hard to access, even when it’s supposedly available in a “5G city,” while AT&T originally marketed its similar 5G+ service solely to enterprises due to its limited availability. Both carriers and rival T-Mobile now rely on secondary “low band 5G” networks to blanket the U.S. with a considerably slower form of 5G coverage, while promising to offer faster speeds in select locations. As a result, Verizon’s 5G performance is extremely uneven from city block to city block, ranging from 4G-like in most places to tens of times faster in very specific locations.

Prompted by a challenge from T-Mobile, the NAD found that while Verizon fairly claimed that its Ultra-Wideband service was 10 times faster than T-Mobile’s 5G, its advertising needs to either “convey a message about what consumers can typically expect to achieve network-wide,” or “modify its demonstrations to depict the typical network speeds.” The NAD also said that Verizon agreed to permanently discontinue “5G Built Right for Firefighters” and “5G Built Right for First Responders” ads, which suggested that the Ultra-Wideband network would perform well indoors — a known issue with the network’s millimeter wave technology.

Those weren’t the only issues with Verizon’s ads, the NAD says: Verizon also made claims about 5G being faster than home internet connections, which require quantification, and its service enabling customers not to “worry about lag,” which wasn’t supported by evidence. Moreover, Verizon suggested that its typical 4G download speed was over 120Mbps, compared with a typical T-Mobile 5G speed of 20Mbps, numbers that were apparently reached with inconsistent benchmarks.

Verizon has agreed to comply with NAD’s findings, and could include either information about typical 5G network-wide speeds or focus on specific city-to-city 5G speed comparisons, without suggesting that those speeds are typical across its entire network. The agreement is particularly significant given that Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg appeared this week at Apple’s 5G iPhone 12-focused virtual media event, promising even faster 4Gbps download speeds that most users are highly unlikely to see on the carrier’s network.

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