T-Mobile USA challenged the "5G Evolution" advertising before the National Advertising Division (NAD). Following NAD's decision, AT&T appealed NAD's recommendation that these two claims be discontinued.
NARB is the appellate unit of the advertising industry's system of self-regulation and NAD is the investigative unit. Both NARB and NAD are divisions of BBB National Programs.
Agreeing with NAD's findings and recommendations, the NARB panel determined that both claims will mislead reasonable consumers into believing that AT&T is offering a 5G network and recommended that the claims be discontinued. At NAD and on appeal, it was not disputed that the AT&T network is not a 5G network. 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. The Panel noted that the current prevalent technology in wireless is 4G LTE, and LTE stands for "evolution." Thus, consumers may well interpret "Evolution" in the challenged claims as signifying that AT&T's technology has already evolved into 5G.
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 stated that it "respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the Panel majority," and reiterated its position that its customers nationwide continue to benefit from dramatically superior speeds and performance that AT&T's current network provides. As a supporter of the self-regulatory process, it will comply with the NARB's decision.