Does Verizon have the fastest 5G in the world?

Tech

Verizon really does have the fastest 5G in the world, or at least it is allowed to make that claim through its advertising, according to an advertising standards ruling this week.

Arch-rival AT&T complained about the “Fastest 5G in the World” claim made by Verizon in advertising to promote its 5G Ultra Wideband service. The telco put its case to the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs, a service designed to ensure truthfulness in advertising across the US by offering independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services. The NAD came down on the side of Verizon though.

Interestingly, AT&T did not dispute Verizon’s speed claims as such, nor that Verizon was unclear in its messaging that the ‘fastest in the world’ slogan referred only to its 5G Ultra Wideband service. The NAD’s investigation centred more on the availability of that UWB offer.

“In this proceeding, NAD considered whether consumers’ ability to connect to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband 0.5% of the time rendered the comparative speed claim of so little consumer relevance as to warrant precluding Verizon from making the claim,” it said, in a statement.

Or to put it another way, with both availability and usage of the 5G UWB network being so low, NAD questioned whether it was perhaps inappropriate for Verizon to trumpet its speed prowess.

However, NAD decided that in the context of its time – the investigation related to advertising and 5G usage from October last year, and six months is a long time when you’re talking about the rollout of a new generation of mobile technology – Verizon’s ads were valid. It cited an OpenSignal report as proof that by October last year customers with 5G phones in parts of 55 cities could connect to Verizon’s mmWave service and therefore by definition access the fastest 5G in the world.

The fact that customers only accessed the UWB network 0.5% of the time must be considered against overall 5G usage, and back in October 5G smartphone owners still spent the vast majority of their time connected to older technology; overall 5G usage was only 21.4%, the NAD said.

As such, it dismissed the idea that Verizon’s fastest in the world claim was invalid due to low usage. Further, it noted that Verizon did a good job of making it clear in the disputed advertising that the claim referred only to its UWB network and that that network had limited availability.

The NAD threw AT&T a bone regarding its concern that the launch of Verizon’s 5G low-band service  – not the fastest in the world – could cause confusion, with customers having difficulty distinguishing between the two types of network. However, it merely advised Verizon to tread carefully with future advertising and make it clear that only the UWB infrastructure is the fastest in the world.

“[Verizon is] pleased that NAD found the claim Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband is the ‘Fastest 5G in the World’ to be truthful and accurate,” Verizon said in a statement shared by the NAD.

But to be fair, that statement is itself not wholly accurate. The NAD did not investigate Verizon’s actual speed claims and who knows, there may be some Koreans with something to say about that.

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