Telecom & Wireless

AT&T's 5G Networks Aren't 5G at All

The new 5G wireless service is supposed to offer people upload and download speeds that are as much as 20 times faster than current 4G systems. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) recently started to market its network as a sort of 5G service. It is not one, at all. The National Advertising Review Board asked AT&T to stop making claims that it offers the faster standard in any way. It is a blow to AT&T’s credibility as a wireless provider.

AT&T Mobility is the largest wireless provider in America, with 169 million customers. Verizon Wireless is second with 118 million. The newly merged Sprint and T-Mobile has nearly 100 million. Among them, they have more subscribers than America has people.

The fight for subscribers among the industry leaders is rabid. Each offers the same smartphones, at nearly identical prices. Each offers low-priced packages to lure customers. It is not clear whether one of these is better than the others.

The new differentiation point among the three is which will have 5G first. That may be based on installations in large cities. Eventually, it will be nationwide. However, smartphone companies have not rushed into the market with 5G products. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) currently does not have a 5G enabled iPhone. Its management believes really large 5G networks are months away, if not longer.

What is the exact claim against AT&T?

National Advertising Division Agreeing with NAD’s (National Advertising Division) findings and recommendations, the NARB panel determined that both claims will mislead reasonable consumers into believing that AT&T is offering a 5G network and recommended that the claims be discontinued. At NAD and on appeal, it was not disputed that the AT&T network is not a 5G network. The NARB Panel agreed with NAD’s analysis and concluded that the term “Evolution” is not likely to alert consumers to the fact that the service is not 5G. The Panel noted that the current prevalent technology in wireless is 4G LTE, and LTE stands for “evolution.” Thus, consumers may well interpret “Evolution” in the challenged claims as signifying that AT&T’s technology has already evolved into 5G.

AT&T’s claim of “The First Step in 5G” does not make the carrier’s ad marketing more acceptable.

AT&T does not really have 5G at all.