In a decision related to a complaint initially filed by T-Mobile, the National Advertising Review Board finally said what we all knew about AT&T's dumb "5Ge" branding from the get go: it's bullshit. AT&T is choosing to comply with the industry self-regulatory body, sort of: (over an issue, let us not forget, that it bitterly contested in an actual lawsuit) it says it will stop saying 5Ge, marketing 5Ge, but that it won't stop using the 5Ge logo in your status bar, because AT&T will do everything possible to weasel out of admitting that displaying a "5Ge" symbol when your phone is definitively not connected to a 5G NR network is and always was a lie. A big lying lie, told by liars, who lie (read: the marketing division). The update regarding the status bar icon came this afternoon in a statement given to Light Reading, with the carrier saying it would not change the 5Ge logo back to 4G or some other term, and that it would continue to be displayed.
AT&T is now openly flouting the spirit of the settlement it agreed to with NARB. And while AT&T won't be able to advertise 5Ge anymore, by the end of the year, it just won't really matter much, because AT&T will be able to advertise basically nationwide actual 5G coverage. So, yes: AT&T essentially fought this just long enough that the fight really isn't relevant any longer, because all the new premium smartphones it will sell this year will work on actual 5G, which will soon be widely available (if not very fast). The NARB's reasoning for rejecting AT&T's argument that 5Ge was not confusing to consumers was simple enough for a first grader not only to understand, but to formulate.
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.
Yes, really. This was at issue: AT&T said people could reasonable infer something called "5Ge" wasn't actually "5G," because it had the word "Evolution" attached to it. This is real life.
Further, the NARB dismissed AT&T's attempt to "clarify" the meaning of 5Ge with an equally dumb, waffling marketing slogan.
Further, the Panel agreed with NAD's conclusion that the addition of "The First Step in 5G" does not cure the concern that consumers could reasonably take away the message that beginning 5G technology is delivered. The Panel noted that a reasonable consumer could conclude that the reference to "The First Step to 5G" was the advertiser's way of promoting a 5G network, while promising an even more robust 5G network at a later time, especially since the slogan is being used in conjunction with "5G Evolution."
AT&T, for its part, put out the statement you'll find below. AT&T said it had no further comment on this story when we reached out.
AT&T respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the Panel majority. AT&T's customers nationwide continue to benefit from dramatically superior speeds and performance that its current network provides. As a supporter of the self-regulatory process, however, AT&T will comply with the NARB's decision.
And now, AT&T is putting one last finger in the eye of everyone; its customers, its competitors, and the NARB by just being a bunch of children over a deceitful, blatantly false marketing strategy. So, a typical day for AT&T.
Story updated to reflect that while AT&T will stop advertising 5Ge, it refuses to stop displaying the 5Ge logo on its customers smartphones, despite the agreement with NARB.