National Advertising Division challenges T-Mobile’s network claims, siding with Verizon

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T-Mobile CEO John Legere. Image: T-Mobile

An advertising watchdog group urged T-Mobile to stop claiming it operates the fastest LTE network in the United States.

But the nation’s third-largest operator isn’t backing down.

T-Mobile ads in recent months have cited crowdsourced data from Ookla and OpenSignal that indicate the carrier’s technology provides the fastest LTE data speeds. But Verizon challenged that claim through the National Advertising Division, an investigative unit of the ad industry’s system of self-regulation administered by the Better Business Bureau.

The NAD determined the test results “might have had a bias in favor of T-Mobile” because they were gleaned from usage just one month after Verizon finally launched its own unlimited-data plan, joining its rivals. The group recommended T-Mobile discontinue “certain advertising claims made in television, print and internet advertisements,” but approved “a modified claim” about the number of people its network covers.

“Verizon customers, who were experiencing deprioritization for the first time during the time period for which T-Mobile provided crowdsourced data, may have monitored their speeds more closely than customers of T-Mobile who had past experience with data deprioritization,” the NAD said in a press release. “Following its review, NAD concluded that the Ookla and Open Signal Speed test results in the month after Verizon introduced unlimited data plans might have had a bias in favor of T-Mobile and as a result did not support a comparative claim that T-Mobile has the fastest 4G LTE network. NAD recommended T-Mobile discontinue claims that it has the fastest LTE network. NAD also recommended that T-Mobile discontinue claims its LTE network is ‘newer’ than Verizon’s and that Verizon’s LTE network is ‘older.’”

T-Mobile discontinued the advertisement in question after Verizon challenged it, the NAD said, but didn’t agree to permanently stop claiming its network is newer and faster than Verizon’s.

Verizon was quick to tout the ruling, saying T-Mobile’s claims were “based on cherry-picked data” and misrepresented true network performance.

“We believe it is critical to represent our company honestly and fairly, through advertising and to consumers,” Verizon said in a statement.” We will continue to do that and to shine a light on those who choose not to. It’s the right thing to do.”

But T-Mobile punched right back, doubling down on its initial claims.

“Taking the issues NAD raised into account, we took another look at the latest third-party data, including crowd-sourced data recognized by NAD,” T-Mobile said in a statement emailed to FierceWireless. “Good news—we again confirmed that T-Mobile is still the fastest LTE network… and we’ll continue to let consumers know that.”