A national advertising watchdog group advised T-Mobile to stop advertising that its wireless service has the most reliable 5G network based on tests by umlaut, a third-party testing company.
Based on prior cases, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that at least one component of a network reliability claim should be task completion. The claims in question were made on T-Mobile’s website and in press releases, including this one in May 2022. A chart in the press release shows T-Mobile with a 5G network reliability score of 466.9; AT&T with a score of 357.4; and Verizon with a score of 304.3. AT&T had challenged T-Mobile’s reliability claims saying, in part, that under umlaut’s methodology a wireless carrier could lag far behind its competitors in task completion but still be crowned “most reliable” based on coverage and speed scores. AT&T also contended umlaut only measures coverage and speed and not reliability.
Guess what? T-Mobile disagrees
According to NAD, T-Mobile countered that its “most reliable 5G network” claim is based on umlaut’s May and June 2022 reports that take into account 5G Transaction Success, a metric measuring whether a customer can complete a task on the carrier’s network. NAD’s decision noted that umlaut’s software is able to initiate transactions on a carrier’s network from customers’ phones and capture the results, which allows umlaut to evaluate how successful each carrier’s 5G network is with respect to completing transactions of various types. umlaut’s total 5G Reliability Score is generated from a subset of six KPIs that umlaut has determined model baseline 5G user requirements and are therefore relevant for assessing 5G network reliability.
But NAD wasn’t satisfied with umlaut’s methodology and in the end, it recommended that T-Mobile discontinue its “most reliable 5G network” claim according to umlaut and all similar challenged claims. NAD also recommended that T-Mobile discontinue the claim that “independent experts from across the industry have sent a clear message time and time again: there’s one network leader and it’s T-Mobile” with regards to a superior reliability message. NAD noted that its decision doesn’t prevent T-Mobile from touting itself as a network leader in respects other than reliability if properly supported.
T-Mobile responded to NAD, saying it disagrees with NAD’s conclusion and it’s proud of its 5G network and the awards it has received. While it's disappointed with NAD’s decision, it “remains a supporter of the self-regulatory process and will comply with NAD’s recommendations.” FEATURED EVENT Register now -5G Blitz Week is Back! March 27-30 Free Virtual Event Register It’s worth noting that AT&T put out a press release of its own this week that said it’s grown “America’s Most Reliable 5G Network” to reach 290 million people in nearly 24,000 cities and towns across the U.S. A footnote stated that the claim about reliability is based on nationwide Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) drive test data. GWS conducts paid drive tests for AT&T and uses the data in its analysis, it said. Many countries around the world are focused on mid-band spectrum because it offers benefits in both coverage and capacity. (Getty Images) The spectrum pipeline in the U.S. looks bleak, especially since the U.S. Senate failed to renew the FCC’s auction authority, and 5G Americas is sounding the alarm. In a new white paper, 5G Americas points out that one of the most useful spectrum bands for 5G is mid-band, which ranges between 1 GHz and 6 GHz. It offers a nice balance of speed, capacity, coverage and penetration for wireless networks. But as of March 2023, there are no bands in the spectrum pipeline in the U.S., the organization said. In fact, T-Mobile, which built its 5G network leadership largely on the 2.5 GHz spectrum it got with Sprint, is still waiting to get the 2.5 GHz spectrum it won in last summer’s 2.5 GHz auction. Analysts at New Street Research (NSR) noted in a March 20 investor report that T-Mobile won over 90% of the licenses in that auction, but FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has said that the agency cannot issue 2.5 GHz band licenses until Congress reauthorizes the FCC auction authority.
NSR said they have their doubts about the FCC’s legal analysis in saying it cannot issue the licenses at the present time, but they don’t think T-Mobile will be able to get a court to force the FCC to issue the licenses prior to the auction authority being re-established, which may not be until the back half of this year.
In a blog, 5G Americas President Chris Pearson noted that the Biden Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are attempting to find ways to release 1,500 MHz of spectrum for study in additional use cases.
But from 5G Americas’ standpoint, “we believe the United States should undertake several policies to ensure a strong and stable pipeline for spectrum,” he said.
5G Americas’ policy recommendations include the following:
The FCC and NTIA in conjunction with the mobile industry should create a spectrum pipeline.
A spectrum pipeline should prioritize the availability of lower range of frequencies in the mid-band range.
Address the identified potential mid-bands and extended mid-bands that need to be tapped into to support current and future 5G and beyond applications.
Coexistence mechanisms already developed for some bands like the 3.45 GHz band may help in developing coexistence mechanism for some new bands.
Actionable studies need to begin immediately to allow the introduction of commercial services for mid-band frequencies below 7 GHz.
Extended mid-band in the range of 8.5 – 16 GHz will help complement the lower mid-band spectrum and should be assessed.
5G Americas acknowledged that the 2.5 GHz (n41) band, CBRS (n48) band, 3.7-3.98 C-band and 3.45 – 3.55 GHz bands have been allocated in the U.S. But the identification, allocation and repurposing of spectrum is a multiyear process and the lack of spectrum in the pipeline is of critical concern. FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel bragged during a speech at Mobile World Congress that under her leadership, the FCC held auctions in the 3.45 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands, making “real progress” in the effort to bring faster 5G to everyone in the U.S.
However, New Street’s Blair Levin noted in his March 20 report that there’s “something odd about claiming credit for fast action when more than 90% of the spectrum still cannot be used due to FCC delays in granting the licenses.” Whatever the right path for the FCC might be, the key point for investors is that T-Mobile will not be able to use those licenses for an undetermined time, he said.