‘5G Evolution’ or ‘5Ge’ has been a controversial campaign from AT&T because it is effectively lying to its customers, but now it has been told to stop the foolishness.

Jamie Davies

May 21, 2020

4 Min Read
National Advertising Review Board finally tells AT&T to stop lying about 5G

‘5G Evolution’ or ‘5Ge’ has been a controversial campaign from AT&T because it is effectively lying to its customers, but now the telco has been told to stop the foolishness.

The telco has persisted with the branding exercise, despite widespread criticism from all corners of the industry, though the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) will hopefully put an end to the misleading statements. It is quite frankly absurd that the telco has been allowed to carry on making such deceptive claims for this long.

Like the National Advertising Division (NAD), the NARB has come to the conclusion that the overall messaging implies that 5G is here. Despite the assertions from AT&T, the inclusion of ‘evolution’ does not inform the customer of an on-going technological journey and some may believe the telco is delivering a service which it is not.

“The Panel agreed with NAD’s conclusion that the addition of ‘The First Step in 5G’ does not cure the concern that consumers could reasonably take away the message that beginning 5G technology is delivered,” the NARB said in a statement.

“The Panel noted that a reasonable consumer could conclude that the reference to ‘The First Step to 5G’ was the advertiser’s way of promoting a 5G network, while promising an even more robust 5G network at a later time, especially since the slogan is being used in conjunction with ‘5G Evolution’.”

Starting back in January 2019, AT&T unveiled a new logo in the corner of its customer’s devices; 5Ge. Some might have assumed they were getting 5G services, a very forgivable mistake, but the presence of a 5Ge symbol actually meant 4G LTE Advanced services had been activated.

This does mean improved download speeds, but it does not mean 5G. AT&T is little more a snakeskin oil salesman.

Amazingly, while most companies would have admitted the error of their ways and retreated cap in hand, AT&T persisted with the campaign, even insisted there was absolutely nothing wrong with misleading its customers. It shows a lack of respect for its customers and an executive team which has the same moral code as an unsupervised baby kicker in a nursery.

Although this is a self-regulated element of the industry, there have been two official bodies appointed; the NAD and the NARB. The NAD is the investigatory arm, while the NARB handles any further disputes which may emerge.

In this case, T-Mobile made a complaint to the NAD, which sided against AT&T, believing the ‘5Ge’ position to be misleading. AT&T appealed this decision that the two claims (‘5G Evolution’ and ‘5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G’) should be discontinued. In such disputes, the NARB steps in to be the final voice, and fortunately its voice today is very reasonable.

AT&T has said that while it disagrees with the opinion of the NARB, it will respect the decision and stop promoting ‘5Ge’ and all other associated messaging.

For those who take a more reasoned and rational view of the US telecoms industry, this is a decision which will bring some relief. AT&T was toying with its own credibility with this misleading campaign, and as a result, was undermining the fragile confidence which is currently placed in 5G.

5G is currently viewed as a premium service for two reasons; firstly, it is not ubiquitous, and secondly, 4G satisfies the download demands of the vast majority. If telcos are going to convince consumers to migrate to 5G services, most likely paying a premium as a result, they will need to be convinced it is actually worth the hassle and the expense.

The 5G proposition which is being delivered today over mmWave is falling short of expectations, though the low-band service offered by T-Mobile is also a bit of a damp squib. With actual 5G services disappointing customers, the last thing US telcos need to do is further compound the misery by selling 4G services under the guise of 5G. The trust will be further compromised, making it more difficult to generate momentum towards the new era of connectivity.

AT&T’s stubborn insistence to keep the ‘5Ge’ campaign alive was going to be little more than a net loss for itself and the industry, but hopefully the 16 months it was allowed to directly mislead customers has not done too much damage.

Telecoms.com Daily Poll:

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