A national advertising watchdog group advised T-Mobile to stop advertising that its wireless service has the most reliable 5G network based on tests by umlaut, a third-party testing company.

Based on prior cases, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that at least one component of a network reliability claim should be task completion.

The claims in question were made on T-Mobile’s website and in press releases, including this one in May 2022. A chart in the press release shows T-Mobile with a 5G network reliability score of 466.9; AT&T with a score of 357.4; and Verizon with a score of 304.3.

AT&T had challenged T-Mobile’s reliability claims saying, in part, that under umlaut’s methodology a wireless carrier could lag far behind its competitors in task completion but still be crowned “most reliable” based on coverage and speed scores. AT&T also contended umlaut only measures coverage and speed and not reliability.  

Guess what? T-Mobile disagrees

According to NAD, T-Mobile countered that its “most reliable 5G network” claim is based on umlaut’s May and June 2022 reports that take into account 5G Transaction Success, a metric measuring whether a customer can complete a task on the carrier’s network.

NAD’s decision noted that umlaut’s software is able to initiate transactions on a carrier’s network from customers’ phones and capture the results, which allows umlaut to evaluate how successful each carrier’s 5G network is with respect to completing transactions of various types. umlaut’s total 5G Reliability Score is generated from a subset of six KPIs that umlaut has determined model baseline 5G user requirements and are therefore relevant for assessing 5G network reliability.

But NAD wasn’t satisfied with umlaut’s methodology and in the end, it recommended that T-Mobile discontinue its “most reliable 5G network” claim according to umlaut and all similar challenged claims. 

NAD also recommended that T-Mobile discontinue the claim that “independent experts from across the industry have sent a clear message time and time again: there’s one network leader and it’s T-Mobile” with regards to a superior reliability message. NAD noted that its decision doesn’t prevent T-Mobile from touting itself as a network leader in respects other than reliability if properly supported. 

T-Mobile responded to NAD, saying it disagrees with NAD’s conclusion and it’s proud of its 5G network and the awards it has received. While it’s disappointed with NAD’s decision, it “remains a supporter of the self-regulatory process and will comply with NAD’s recommendations.” 

It’s worth noting that AT&T put out a press release of its own this week that said it’s grown “America’s Most Reliable 5G Network” to reach 290 million people in nearly 24,000 cities and towns across the U.S. A footnote stated that the claim about reliability is based on nationwide Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) drive test data. GWS conducts paid drive tests for AT&T and uses the data in its analysis, it said.

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