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ASA bans Three’s ‘real 5G’ ads after challenge from Vodafone and BT

Jasper Hart
March 25, 2020

Regulator deems claim misleading as 5G service is still too limited

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned two adverts from Three that claim the operator is the only one to offer “real 5G” after complaints from Vodafone and BT.

According to the regulator, the adverts, from August 2019, were a tweet and a wraparound print advert in the Metro newspaper, stating: “If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G… we’re building the UK’s fastest 5G network.”

The wraparound ad also mentioned that Three is “the only UK mobile network to have 100MHz of spectrum in one big block that’s real 5G,” a reference to Three being the only UK MNO to have 100MHz of contiguous 5G spectrum.

As well as BT and Vodafone, the ASA stated that five members of the public and an independent telecoms consultant challenged whether the adverts claims about “real 5G” were misleading.

In its defence, Three cited its superior spectrum holdings compared to those of the other operators, and other measures it had taken to overhaul its network and provide lower latency and faster speeds.

However, the ASA ruled that, given the timing of the advertisements, 5G services were still limited across all operators. Additionally, at the time, Three had not yet launched a 5G mobile service.

As a result, the ASA determined that Three’s claim about “real 5G” was likely to mislead.

The ASA’s final ruling reads: “The ads must not appear again in the forms complained of. We told Three to ensure future ads did not mislead by, for example, using wording which suggested that the service offered by competitors did not provide the significantly faster speeds that 5G was expected to provide.”

A Three spokesperson said :“Three’s unrivalled 5G spectrum portfolio means that we are the only UK operator capable of delivering a ‘full bandwidth 5G’ service over 100MHz contiguous spectrum, a standard recognised by the ITU – something that our rivals clearly acknowledge.”

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