Review Board Rules Against AT&T 5G Ads

After recommendations from the National Advertising Division (NAD) and the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), AT&T will stop using the term “5G Evolution” when referencing its 4G service in advertising. This move comes after criticism over the company’s 5GE icon which does not indicate actual 5G service. The NAD serves as the self-regulatory body of the advertising industry.

According to Ars Technica, “AT&T’s so-called 5G Evolution service is in reality just 4G with advanced LTE features like 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation.” After beginning its 5GE campaign in early 2019, AT&T was challenged by T-Mobile before the NAD, who determined that the company should discontinue its 5G Evolution and “5G Evolution, the First Step to 5G” claims.

In a press release, the NAD recognized the implied claims of AT&T’s 5GE advertising campaign. “NAD determined that consumers can take away the message that AT&T’s ‘5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G’ network is (1) a network using 5G technology; or (2) represents a level of technology above 4G LTE service,” wrote the publication. “However, it was not disputed that the portion of AT&T’s network that it calls ‘5G Evolution’ is a 4G network.”

The NARB rejected AT&T’s subsequent appeal of the NAD’s decision. In the press release, an NARB panel determined the company should end its 5GE claims. “Agreeing with NAD’s 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,” wrote the group. “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.”

An AT&T spokesman told Ars Technica that although the company “respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the Panel majority,” it will comply with the NARB’s decision. However at the time of publication, it is alleged that the 5GE icon still remains visible on phones.