5G and Beyond

Verizon Is 'First & Only' with 5G? Advertising Arbiter Says Nope

Is Verizon the first and only carrier to 5G? Verizon says yes, but the National Advertising Division, a unit administered by the Better Business Bureau, says no.

"Verizon's claim, 'America's first and only 5G ultra wideband network' is not linked directly to the exclusive technology or benefits Verizon is claiming to provide," NAD wrote in its findings. "Consequently, to the extent that Verizon wants to use its 'first and only ultra wideband network' claim, it can do so if it ties this claim directly to its unique technology or performance benefits."

NAD said Verizon needs to change its ads. Verizon is appealing the findings.

While this might seem like more 5G fluffery, a ruling by the National Advertising Division actually carries some weight. National advertisers that submit to the NAD advertising-review process do so to avoid potentially expensive litigation. Further, NAD said its lawyers settle advertising disputes "fairly and effectively" and that doing so "helps to ensure a level playing field."

And that's probably why AT&T used the venue to take issue with Verizon's ads. In a series of ads about the 5G Home fixed wireless service the operator launched in October, Verizon claimed that it operates the nation's "first and only 5G network." AT&T, which launched a mobile 5G offering at the end of last year, clearly didn't like that at all.

"If, as advertised, Verizon is 'First to 5G,' NAD determined that this necessarily means that its competitors may be second or third," the group wrote.

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Verizon, for its part, wrote that it disagrees with NAD's conclusions, and that the ads only convey "corporate pride in its achievements and the development of its next generation 5G Ultra-Wideband Network. Verizon also disagrees that reasonable consumers are likely to misunderstand its claims about its '5G Ultra-wideband network,' which is unique from networks under development by other carriers."

Here is one of the Verizon advertisements in question:

While this is the first 5G-related claim to hit the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Division, it's by no means the first ad-related 5G dustup. For example, Sprint made a very public showing of its decision to file a lawsuit against AT&T's decision to replace the LTE icon on some of its phones with a "5G E" icon. Moreover, a wide range of companies, including C Spire, Redzone and others, are cashing in on 5G marketing noise with technologies that sit outside of the 3GPP's 5G NR standard.

Thus, it's probably a safe bet that the lawyers at the Better Business Bureau's NAD are going to get a lot more 5G-related cases.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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