Update: T-Mobile's official response to the National Advertising Division is as below. 

NAD’s findings are a validation of our marketing approach.  In fact, today's NAD findings won't result in any substantial changes to our marketing claims.  We will continue to spread the word about our coast to coast 4G coverage, superfast 4G network, and superior call clarity, along with our message of simple, no annual service contract plans, unlimited data and the best upgrade program, JUMP!

-Mike Sievert, T-Mobile CM

T-Mobile has been a bit more brazen with its advertising since the start of its unconventional "Uncarrier" campaign, and plenty of people have started to notice. That includes at least a few people that T-Mobile would rather avoid, namely the National Advertising Division, a division of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council overseen by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The NAD took action after a complaint from AT&T.

Cnet reports that the NAD took exception to T-Mobile's claim that its wireless network offered "50% more bandwidth than AT&T." Apparently T-Mobile's comparison was only using the older HSPA network (which both companies have referred to as "4G" in advertising and marketing material) and ignored the newer LTE networks. T-Mobile's network is almost entirely HSPA with only a few LTE markets, whereas A&T has been expanding LTE for almost two years. The NAD called the HSPA-only comparison "flawed," and recommends that T-Mobile modify its advertising to include more specific information on locations and technology conditions that might allow its customers to use more bandwidth when accessing the data network.

Here's an example. Note that the commercial never makes a distinction between HSPA ("4G") and LTE, and instructs customers to visit at T-Mobile store for more details.

The NAD also recommends that T-Mobile stop claiming that it has the "most advanced technology" and "faster 4G service." Though this kind of marketing language isn't exactly uncommon in the American carrier market, it might be particularly difficult for T-Mobile to back up, considering that its HSPA and LTE network barely differs from AT&T in terms of actual hardware. The Division also wants T-Mobile to stop using coverage maps when claiming 4G or LTE superiority and stop broadly claiming superior call quality, instead favoring the more specific "audio or voice quality."

The National Advertising Division and the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council don't have any actual means of compelling T-Mobile or any company to comply with their recommendations; the ASRC (formerly NARC) is a coalition of advertisers and third-party overseers with no government backing. T-Mobile released a statement saying it would "take into consideration the concerns expressed with future advertising," while AT&T has not yet responded.

For further reading in carrier craziness, check out T-Mobile's suit against AT&T over two shades of pink. Yes, really.

Source: Cnet

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Bazar6

    Marketers just trying to get an edge... They shouldn't be able to call anything 4G unless it was true LTE... This problem has been around since VZW had to educate folks on the difference between AT&T's "4G" (you know, HSPA+) and VZW's own "4G LTE"...

    • Clint P

      LTE isn't even real 4G if I remember correctly. I believe the technical specifications for 4G state that speeds should be capable of reaching up to 1 Gbit/s. Is that wrong?

      • Michael

        It's not, which is why it's called "Long Term Evolution"

        • Skrill Dilly

          All of you are wrong as 4G definition has been updated to include HSPA+.

          The International Telecommunications Union has expanded its definition of 4G service to include WiMax, LTE and HSPA+. This decision comes a couple of months after T-Mobile and Sprint had started calling their respective HSPA+ and WiMax offerings 4G in advertisements. Verizon has started promoting its LTE service as a 4G connection. While AT&T is the only one of the four major U.S. operators not to promote a 4G pipeline, the carrier did dispute T-Mobile's claim of owning the largest 4G network in America, as we reported. And Sprint even saidthat it had the only real 4G network in the U.S.

          Source: http://www.phonearena.com/news/ITU-says-LTE-WiMax-and-HSPA--are-now-officially-4G_id15435

          • PhaseBurn

            Yea, so Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint started lying about their networks being 4G when they weren't, and the ITU caved, altering the definition of 4G to make them compatible. The whole G thing is pathetic and overrated at this point, with there being no real difference between 3G and 4G now, because the low end of HSPA and the high end of SVDO are both the same speed, but one qualifies as 4G and the other doesn't. Sure, HSPA is *capable* of higher speeds, but the fact that it's simply HSPA doesn't make it 4G worthy if I'm only pulling 50 kbit/sec. It's like the ethernet standard - It's capable of handling 10 gigabit (and soon, 50), but if you hook me up at 10 megabit I might have an unkind word for you.

          • mechapathy

            That's like saying a Veyron and a Camry are practically the same car because the Veyron can also do the Camrys top speed.

          • PhoenixPath


            Apparently this one needs a buffer-zone in between his speeds...

          • Skrill Dilly

            Opinion and fact are 2 different things. No matter the reason for them agreeing HSPA + is 4G doesn't matter, it's now 4G and has been for some time. Our feelings towards that decision is irreverent to this topic. HSPA and HSPA + are not the same. You said HSPA.

          • PhoenixPath

            Thank you.

    • Daniel

      Except that LTE isn't true 4G either. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4G

    • kindrudekid

      problem is they advertize it as ATnT 4G and then in small letters they write ATT 4G = HSPA+. yet never clarifying that HSPA+ =/= 4G LTE

      and every time I have heard a Verizon 4glte advert, its Verizon's 4GLTE. that 's makes a huge difference, they arent mis informing the customers, they are just taking advantage of their ignorance...

  • giant22000

    Way to go NAD! Pick on the only carrier that is doing something about the carrier subsidy rip off in America! I wouldn't have smart phone service with anyone except T-Mobile as the AT&T and Verizon are nothing but corporate blood suckers! Die Verizon! Die AT&T!

    Rant over.....

    • Al in SoCal

      Applause! Great post - exactly my feelings!

    • HopelesslyFaithful

      i am not sure i would say that. It appears all they did was keep the same price and make you pay for the phone.....How is that better?

      I pay 50 bucks per line on sprint but when you count the 400 or maybe more on phone subsidy i only pay 33.33 per month per line or less Tmobile would have been a crap ton more from what i remember when i checked them out

      • giant22000

        Sprint?? Surprised there still in business as well... I almost get better coverage out of my homes wifi than Sprint...

        But in all seriousness T-Mobile did have a price decrease I believe earlier this year, but do the math yourself and you'll see that with Tmo paying for the phone outright and the savings on the monthly price you'll save I want to say around $400-$500 from what I remember over 2 years.

        Don't hear what I'm not saying... I'm not sitting here saying that Tmo is perfect by any means as they have some catching up to do themselves, but price per what you get, they've got the best deal right now! Just saying...

        • HopelesslyFaithful

          you can't read. i already said i play only 33 dollars a month per line so yea find a tmobile plan that can beat that and i might switch

          • giant22000

            hukt on fonixs wurkt 4 mee :)

          • Terry

            I pay $29.70 and no tax each month with T-Mobile.

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            unlimited everything?

          • Terry

            Aaaa... now you are adding qualifiers that was not in your original message.

            No, unlimited text, 5GB of HSPA+, 100 min voice. I attached my number to Vontage (free) for VoIP. So it's basically 100 min of incoming which I hardly ever use. And I consume about 2.5 to 4GB during a given month. I've never hit the 5GB high speed limit.

            I (like many people I know) don't need unlimited everything and if I need more I buy more but keep the base price at 29.70. However, I'm aware there are a sub set of people who do need unlimited everything and this does not work for them. Also, if you are not in a good T-mobile this really will not work.

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            yea but 5GB of data is hardly anything...i probably go through that with just updates to programs -_- the point was comparing tmobile to sprint....tmobile unlimited is horrible expensive I only pay $33 a month after counting the subsidy even without subsidy (~$50) i think it is still cheaper if i remember

    • mechapathy

      They're being a real pain in the NADs. Sorry, I'll show myself out.

  • Steve Freeman

    Oh no, a wireless carrier not using accurate details in its advertisements! That's horrible! And unprecedented!

    • mechapathy

      Brought to you by the nation's first false advertiser!

  • Al in SoCal

    What about the ongoing LIE that AT&T has something called: Customer Service?

    • mechapathy

      Neither does T-mobile though. And I'm a T-mobile customer. My house is a RF nightmare. I need one of their signal boosters (cuz they don't offer femtocells and I'm on a Nexus 4 which doesn't support Wifi calling). I call them every few weeks to check the stock instead of them simply sending one out (I've been approved for one) when they have them in stock. Sure, that's a hassle, but not horrible.

      But then, a few days ago, I went to a store to get a new SIM card. I was having new signal issues, so I wanted to start with the easiest possible fix (outside of, of course, software issues). One of the folks behind the desk gave me a bunch of crap for wanting a new SIM, stating that mine was only a few months old. Long story short, I eventually got the SIM, and my problems were resolved (imagine that). T-mobile has a ways to go in the field of customer service too.

      I should mention that I'm not in a contract, and I don't have device payments. So I can jump ship at any given moment. I also always pay my bill early. They should be nice to me if they want to keep me as a customer.

      • Trina S

        I think the biggest thing is each person's perception of customer service. I've had nothing but good service with T-Mobile (and Bank of America, who many claim is the ultimate in bad customer service). But I know others who have had nothing but problems. It's completely subjective. But I'll never understand how someone gets an award for best customer service. It's entirely about who you talk to and you can cut out the bad surveys.

  • PhaseBurn

    All in all, caveat emptor. Never trust an ad, they're designed to make what they're selling look appealing and hiding the flaws.

  • faceless128

    seems like they were accurate in measuring their HSPA+ rollout vs AT&T's HSPA+ rollout, and theirs is indeed 50% faster.

  • QwietStorm

    But it's ok for Verizon to repeatedly tout their 99.9% network efficiency. What a convenient number to roll with.

    • Jeremiah Rice

      From what I understand, the NAD only responds when an affected company complains. I guess none of Verizon's competitors want to challenge that claim... and open themselves up to some unflattering comparison.

      • jonathan3579

        So if that's the case, then that leaves one culprit... *cough AT&T cough*

        • PhoenixPath

          Those of us that read the article already knew that. ;-)

          "The NAD took action after a complaint from AT&T."

  • Matthew Fry

    Hey. That's interesting. AT&T gathered that they were being referred to but they were never actually named. Maybe a distinctive color is enough for brand recognition within the same industry. ಠ_ಠ