EE issues a formal complaint about Three’s advertising of ‘real 5G’

EE issues a formal complaint about Three’s advertising of ‘real 5G’
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UK mobile operator EE has issued a formal complaint to the advertising watchdog about rival Three over its ‘real 5G’ marketing.

Three has been advertising that it’s the only UK mobile operator to offer “real” 5G in newspapers and social media posts.

National advertising rules in the UK require claims of superiority over a competitor to be backed with clear evidence. However, Three’s claim of being the only UK mobile operator to offer true 5G isn’t entirely unsubstantiated.

Three has scooped up 140MHz of 5G-friendly spectrum, including a single 100MHz contiguous block. Three claims this will enable it to offer peak speeds up to twice as fast as any rival network at launch. With 50MHz of spectrum, Vodafone is Three’s closest rival.

Global 5G standards body the ITU states ‘true’ 5G requires 100MHz of 5G spectrum; which is why Three has been making the claim of superiority over its rivals in its marketing.

“5G is a game-changer for Three, and of course I am excited that we will be the only operator in the UK who can offer true 5G,” said Three CEO Dave Dyson in June.

Where EE could have grounds for its watchdog complaint is that Three’s 5G network is relatively untested due to a limited rollout. While Three’s 5G network looks good on paper, real-world conditions may prove different.

Earlier this week, Three launched its first 5G service as a home broadband solution in London. Initial tests indicate fast speeds, but it’s worth keeping in mind the limited rollout means there will be little network congestion at this point:


A test by The Verge of EE’s smartphone 5G service in London averaged around 200Mbps download. EE likely has more 5G smartphone users on its network than Three has 5G home broadband customers – and the speed tests were conducted in different places – so it’s certainly not a like-for-like comparison, but it gives a general idea.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it has received five complaints about Three’s campaign, one of which came from EE’s parent company BT.

“Three’s claim to be the only real 5G network is entirely false, and deliberately aimed at misleading consumers,” EE said in a statement. “Our customers have been using real 5G since we launched the UK’s first 5G network, back in May.”

EE and Vodafone have revealed under 20 places for their 5G launches this year, but already have networks live in around seven cities each. O2 will only launch in six cities this year before expanding to 50 by summer 2020. Three plans to launch 5G in 25 cities before the end of 2019.

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