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T-Mobile to stop ‘most reliable 5G’ claim after AT&T, Verizon challenge


T-Mobile struck out again in its effort to claim America’s most reliable 5G network after an unsuccessful appeal to an advertising industry review board.


T-Mobile said it will follow recommendations from the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) to stop all express and implied claims of having the most reliable 5G network based on data from network testing company umlaut. NARB determined umlaut’s methodology didn’t meet the right criteria to claim most reliable, and it upholds earlier findings by the National Advertising Division (NAD) in separate challenges brought on by competitors AT&T and Verizon last year.


The review board consolidated the separate cases together for one appeal decision.

Specifically, NARB said umlaut’s methods didn’t take into account completion of a data task (or “task completion”) as a metric of reliability, something it says is one of two key components along with the ability to connect to the network.


“Further, in the absence of convincing consumer research justifying a different result, the panel agreed with NAD’s conclusion that at least one component of network reliability analysis should be task completion,” wrote NARB.


Instead, umlaut’s April 2021 assessment of 5G network reliability evaluated speed and coverage using two different approaches, but NARB pointed out that mobile carriers often promote network on claims of speed, coverage and reliability.


“This practice further confirms that, to the reasonable consumer, reliability is a metric that is distinct from coverage and speed even if those two metrics may properly be part of the assessment of reliability, as NAD concluded in the underlying proceeding,” the review board, which is part of BBB National Programs.


Umlaut’s report uses crowdsourced data from smartphones via software that operates in the background of apps downloaded from the Google Play store.


Although T-Mobile said it will pull back advertising based on the results, it still disagreed with NARB that umlaut’s 5G network reliability assessment was faulty. That said, the operator added it “nonetheless remains mindful of NAD’s directive that wireless carriers ensure their network performance claims be based on current data, and will make sure that any future claim that its 5G network is the most reliable addresses the concerns that NARB has articulated in this decision.”


NAD is an investigative unit and part of the advertising industry’s self-regulated process to review national ads across media for truthfulness and accuracy. Carriers often challenge claims made by competitors and others, such as Verizon, have had to make 5G advertising changes in the past.


T-Mobile has gotten top scores in other third-party tests for its increased 5G speeds and coverage as it continues to build out a network using mid-bad 2.5 GHz spectrum, but network reliability – something Verizon historically claimed stake to – is one challenge that seems to keep creeping up.


One instance was back in 2020 when NAD sided with Verizon and recommended T-Mobile stop claiming that its 5G network was more reliable than competitors’ 4G or 5G networks. T-Mobile’s appeal of that determination was also unsuccessful.

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