Verizon Has To Walk Back Bogus 5G Coverage Claims

from the make-believe dept

We've talked a lot about how while fifth-generation (5G) wireless is a good thing (in that faster, more reliable networks are always good), it's been comically over-hyped by cellular carriers that have taken every opportunity to misrepresent what the technology is capable of, the kind of real world speeds users will actually see, and where the technology is actually available.

If you listen to Verizon's 5G ads, you'd think the technology was already available nearly everywhere. Verizon ads routinely proclaim that "People from midtown Manhattan to downtown Denver can experience what your 5G can deliver," and usually feature thrilled consumers from Omaha to Los Angeles basked in ultra-fast wireless glory.

Reality is... something different. One recent study by OpenSignal found that users in the real world are able to obtain a Verizon 5G signal about 0.4% of the time, largely because the millimeter wave spectrum Verizon is using doesn't provide very good range, and can't penetrate buildings particularly well. Even in the places that Verizon advertises as having widespread coverage -- like sports stadiums -- routinely see patchy availability.

As such, after fielding complaints from AT&T (which has routinely made its own false claims about 5G), the National Advertising Division (NAD)--the investigative arm of a nonprofit dubbed the BBB National Programs--has told Verizon to stop misleading consumers as to where 5G is actually available:

"...the challenged advertising consists of shifting images of Verizon engineers describing the exceptional speed and capacity of Verizon’s 5G network while standing in geographically diverse cities throughout the UnitedStates, with several running real-time speed tests on their phones.& NAD determined that while the challenged advertising communicates the accurate message that Verizon is building its 5G network, the commercials simultaneously tout the current performance of the network, ultimately conveying the net impression that Verizon’s “ultrafast” 5G network is widely available in cities across the country and, where it has already been launched, is broadly and readily accessible to consumers."

Carriers have always been full of shit when it comes to wireless data availability maps, but 5G has managed to take things to the next level as carriers attempt to spike lagging smartphone sales and justify some of the highest prices for mobile data in the developed world. That has included not only declaring a 5G city "launched" when just a handful of blocks can get service (something you'll often see in fiber deployment), but actually using fake phone icons to pretend that existing 4G networks are actually 5G. Carriers have also lobbied against government efforts to improve 5G availability mapping.

The problem of course is that NAD tends to be more decorative than substantive protection against false industry claims. As a self-regulatory apparatus, the organization is used by industry as a form of wrist slap theater to justify regulatory apathy at the FCC and FTC. Most penalties for false advertising are negligible, and by the time these complaints wind their way through the dispute process, the ads in question have often already had their intended impact. So while Verizon has agreed to pull these latest ads, there's nothing stopping them from doing it all over again a few months down the road with a few tweaks, starting the cycle all over again.

And undaunted, carriers continue to misrepresent 5G as a widely available communications revolution. In reality, studies have indicated that U.S. 5G, while certainly fast, pales in comparison to overseas networks -- in large part because we've failed to make mid-band spectrum (much of it held by the government) available for widespread public use. By over-hyping what the tech can do and where it's available (without seriously competing on price in the face of growing sector consolidation), the industry is obliviously training consumers to associate 5G with disappointment.

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Filed Under: 5g, false advertising, misleading advertisement
Companies: better business bureau, verizon


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  • icon
    Koby (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 7:41am

    Slow Train Wreck

    A number of industries and major corporations have wrecked their reputations over the years, but the destruction didn't happen overnight. Many cable companies and ISPs are now viewed with contempt. Microsoft lost its luster and couldn't push a smartphone into the market despite the hoopla.

    I say that mobile carriers are next, with a combination of over-promising, under-delivering, and over-charging customers. Mistakes like this 5G episode will come back to haunt them someday as customers become too wary to buy into some future product. The false promises will hurt them eventually.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 17 Jul 2020 @ 7:17am

      Re: Slow Train Wreck

      "Microsoft lost its luster and couldn't push a smartphone into the market despite the hoopla."

      It doesn't have to - with windows 7 and 10 actually pseudo-functional and their office/CRM packages holding most major corporations solidly hostage. That windows 10 desktop now has an UI made for a smartphone or tablet is simply...annoying but not a dealbreaker.

      "Mistakes like this 5G episode will come back to haunt them someday as customers become too wary to buy into some future product."

      AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are, arguably, the top three most hated companies in the US and have been for quite some time. Ajit Pai's time at the wheel of the FCC allowed them to consolidate an almost completely untouchable monopoly in the geographic areas they serve.

      Customers already do not want any of those three. It's simply that either you go to whoever serves your city and beg for punishment or you will have to do without the internet - which is, today, a daunting prospect.

      Naturally they know this which is why they aren't even pretending to give a rat's ass about their customers any longer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2020 @ 8:44am

    I am shocked, SHOCKED that 5G, the only known-and-proven cure for Coronavirus, is being inhibited at a time like this. Don't people realize that believing you have access to 5G confers some immunity to Covid via the placebo effect?

    And, this is the most important thing, MASKS BLOCK THE 5G GOODNESS!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NoahVail (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 9:23am

    5G, while certainly fast, pales in comparison to overseas networks -- in large part because we've failed to make mid-band spectrum (much of it held by the government) available for widespread public use.

    This would seem to be the 5G story of the decade.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2020 @ 2:51pm

    Not just in the US but same issue in China - the world leader (per them) in 5G.
    https://www.lightreading.com/asia/chinas-5g-question-why-are-so-few-using-it/d/d-id/762340?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 3:18pm

    Problems

    Its very much fun...to think.
    That Where can you go and get service?
    Wired phone service? how much? Can be wireless??

    HOW and what to do, after creating a wireless world, and everyoine can have a phone.. AND then we have that federal $9 per person, if we could ever find that service.

    I WILL BET, that insted of REAL 5g, they will up the speed of 4G to what the rest of the world has Already.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PLhxYIDwJs
    5g test by a Canadian..

    But in the long run...WHY??
    4G works pretty well, and better if they UP the speed allowed. But WHY?
    Better phone service?
    Better video??
    I have 150mbps, at home and YT keeps up very well. I can even have 4-10 videos going at once.(If Im being silly).

    AND THE CAPS(giggle)..
    With 800+mbps, and a full speed download, you will hit that CAP HARD..and fast. But most of the internet Dont even use speeds that fast..I hardly EVER hit my top speed downloading games..And those games are 80gig PLUS and take 20-60 min to Download..at 1/7 the speed..
    NOW, if they are thinking of using this for HOME USE INTERNET.. What are they going to need to happen..? THAT is allot of data for 1 cell site to send. Xmas at macy's 1/2 off everything sale, Anyone??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Boba Fat (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 8:24pm

    It's just a typo

    The ad should have said "People from midtown Manhattan OR downtown Denver..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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