May 21, 2020 - Technology

Ad panel finds AT&T's "5GE" misleading

5GE ad from AT&T
Screenshot: AT&T.com

AT&T has used the label "5G Evolution" and a 5GE logo on phones for months to describe a version of its LTE network, but the U.S. ad industry's review board found the designations misleading on Wednesday and recommended AT&T stop using the terms in advertising.

Why it matters: The designation was long bemoaned by journalists, analysts, competitors and even quietly by some at the company. AT&T said it has already stopped using the term in its advertising.

Background: T-Mobile had complained to the National Advertising Division about the ads and an initial review came down against AT&T. AT&T then appealed to the National Advertising Review Board, which upheld the earlier decision.

What they're saying: In a statement, AT&T said it respectfully disagrees with the ruling, but says that "as a supporter of the self-regulatory process" it will comply with the group's decision.

Yes but: It's unclear whether it will also stop displaying the 5GE logo on consumer devices. My iPhone still shows "5GE" as the network type when connecting here in San Francisco, for example.

Our thought bubble: It is not uncommon in the wireless industry for one or more companies to jump the gun and try to market something incremental as "the next G" — but the entire industry suffers when that happens. It will be hard enough for consumers to sort out the multiple flavors of 5G that really are 5G.

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