July 14, 2020
Verizon said it will stop running two advertisements that imply its 5G coverage is extensive, after AT&T challenged those claims.
The dustup between the two companies helps to highlight their increasingly diverging strategies around 5G. Although both Verizon and AT&T initially kicked off their commercial mobile 5G efforts using transmissions in millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, AT&T has since moved toward a lowband 5G strategy that covers far more geographic territory, albeit with significantly slower download speeds. Verizon, meantime, has so far stayed the course with mmWave, and plans to expand its mmWave 5G service to roughly double the number of cities that AT&T counts.
However, the operators' 5G offerings will likely become a little more similar later this year when Verizon launches nationwide 5G on its own lowband spectrum using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). Such a development would position both Verizon and AT&T – as well as T-Mobile – to offer nationwide 5G signals just in time to sell the 5G-capable iPhone Apple is expected to launch in the fall.
In the meantime, though, Verizon and AT&T continue to jostle for a better 5G position. That's likely what drove AT&T to take its complaints over Verizon's 5G ads to the National Advertising Division (NAD), a unit of the BBB National Programs. (Confusingly, BBB National Programs does trace its origins back to the Council of Better Business Bureaus, designed to foster trust in businesses, but it is no longer an official part of that organization, despite the “BBB” in its name. Officials from the organization confirmed that the “BBB” in BBB National Programs doesn’t actually stand for anything.) Regardless, the NAD of the BBB National Programs is intended to guide the "truthfulness of advertising across the US," and provides participating companies a place to mediate their advertising grievances.
NAD: Verizon ads on 5G coverage could mislead
In a release Tuesday, NAD wrote that its study of Verizon's ads found that "certain express and implied claims regarding the breadth of Verizon's 5G coverage and typical speeds potentially communicate a misleading message to consumers."
The NAD specifically took issue with Verizon's statement that "people from midtown Manhattan to downtown Denver can experience what your 5G can deliver." The agency argued that the wording implied that Verizon offers widespread 5G coverage. Verizon began offering 5G coverage maps last year, and they show that Verizon's 5G service often covers just a few blocks of some cities' downtown areas.
Verizon told the NAD that "it will comply with NAD's recommendations even though it does not agree with all aspects of NAD's decision."
Interestingly, the millions of dollars Verizon has allocated toward 5G advertisements appear to be paying off. Citing data from M Science, PCMag reported this week that Verizon is now selling roughly 100,000 5G phones per week, more than double what AT&T and T-Mobile are selling. The publication noted such sales may be partly due to the discounts Verizon is providing on some of its 5G phones.
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