After three years of what many believe to be false advertising, AT&T will now cease use of its 5G evolution branding.
AT&T 5G evolution branding to cease
The National Advertising Review Board (NARB), an industry ad regulator, says that the branding isn't transparent enough with consumers and must be tossed. In a statement, AT&T says that "AT&T respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the Panel majority."
And yet, "as a supporter of the self-regulatory process, however, AT&T will comply with the NARB's decision." Though full of regret, AT&T is complying with the board's decision.
Why eliminate AT&T's 5G branding?
Why did the NARB vote to remove the branding? The answer pertains to the lack of transparency with the branding. 5G Evolution implies a few things. First, it could refer to a network (say, a 4G network) that "evolves" or grows into 5G.
Next, the branding could refer to early 5G technology. AT&T users might think that the branding alone says that the network is early 5G for customers.
This is problematic, since 5G technology wasn't even a thing back in 2017 when the company started using the advertising branding.
The 5GE icons on smartphones does appear to be misleading, on its face. AT&T says that the branding refers to its upgraded network. It's true; the company has upgraded its network with faster speeds than before. And yet, are the speeds truly enough to equal 5G?
No. The 5GE network brings speeds below 100Mbps. AT&T's true 5G network, on the other hand, performs with speeds at 2Gbps or greater. As one can see, 5G and "5GE" aren't even close in speed performance. An OpenSignal test from 2019 shows that Ma Bell's 5GE network is no faster than 4G networks on Verizon and T-Mobile.
Last but not least, "5GE" on 4G smartphones makes users think they can access 5G. Unfortunately, users must own a 5G smartphone to utilize AT&T's 5G network.
4G-ready smartphones cannot access 5G, though they can access 5GE because it isn't true 5G. Some customers were not aware of the difference in "5GE" and "5G," however.
Misleading advertising in the wireless industry
Misleading advertising has become a tool for carriers that some have used to charge past their competitors. T-Mobile, with its "No Contract" announcement back in 2016, is another example. Sure, the new plans allow users to pay their phones off at any point.
They do not have to stay two years in a plan. And yet, the majority of users will pay a certain amount each month, something akin to a contract plan for many. Customers who end their agreements before two years could end up paying more than traditional contracts mandate.