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Verizon to stop certain ad claims of 5G coverage

Verizon has agreed to stop certain 5G ads after the National Advertising Division (NAD) determined some claims could mislead consumers about the carrier’s 5G availability and typical speeds.

AT&T challenged Verizon in the context of two TV commercials, prompting the review by NAD, which is an investigative unit that reviews national ads across media for truthfulness and accuracy. 

NAD recommended Verizon discontinue messages that its 5G service is widely available in cities across the country, and broadly and readily accessible in markets where it has launched.

At issue includes Verizon’s claim that “People from midtown Manhattan to downtown Denver can experience what your 5G can deliver.”

This comes in the context of Verizon engineers in various cities throughout the U.S. performing real-time speed tests and touting exceptional speed and performance of the carrier’s 5G network, according to NAD. To consumers, NAD decided the depiction was representative of Verizon 5G service availability in numerous cities across the country, rather than availability in specific locations where engineers were standing.

It found that “while the challenged advertising communicates the accurate message that Verizon is building its 5G network, the commercials simultaneously tout the current performance of the network, ultimately conveying the net impression that Verizon’s ‘ultrafast’ 5G network is widely available in cities across the country,” and available widely in already deployed cities.

Verizon’s 5G rollouts so far have used millimeter wave spectrum, which can deliver fast speeds but has limited reach because of short-range signals. At the end of June, the service was available in parts of 35 cities. Independent network testing results have shown Verizon’s 5G offers fast speeds but minimal availability. Analysis by  Opensignal last month pegged Verizon’s 5G availability at just 0.4%. Still, PCMag on Tuesday reported that despite less 5G coverage than competitors, Verizon has significantly more customers buying 5G devices than either AT&T or T-Mobile (or T-Mobile and Sprint combined). 

The carrier didn’t dispute its current 5G is limited, according to NAD, which noted the service is only available outdoors in certain neighborhoods and can vary block to block. Verizon’s disclosure that “5G Ultra Wideband only available in parts of select cities and locations. 5G-capable device req’d. Coverage may vary and is not available exactly in all locations and venues depicted” wasn’t clear or visible enough, NAD decided.

Verizon, as recommended, will also stop messaging that implies speeds mentioned in the commercials (of “almost 2 Gigs” and “1.7 Gigs”) are what consumers typically experience, until there’s evidence that shows its how the 5G network will perform under normal conditions or unless Verizon uses more obvious disclosures.

Verizon disagreed with some aspects of the decision, but will follow NAD recommendations, adding it “remains committed to the self-regulatory process and believes strongly in transparency of customer messaging.”

The carrier is already appealing a separate NAD decision in May to the National Advertising Review Board, over claims related to “the most powerful 5G experience for America.” In that case, NAD said the ads conveyed Verizon is already ‘delivering’ that 5G experience, while Verizon asserted its explicit message of ‘building’ the 5G network was clear to consumers.

While the challenger in this case, AT&T has also been on the other side of advertising disputes. In May AT&T agreed to stop using “5G Evolution” marketing messages after an unsuccessful appeal to NARB. However, that didn’t extend to the carrier’s controversial ‘5GE’ smartphone connectivity icon.

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