An advert promoting Three’s 5G network has been banned after two rival mobile operators said the campaign was misleading.
EE owner BT and Vodafone filed complaints to the advertising watchdog about the newspaper and social media ads, which claimed Three was the only provider to offer “real” 5G.
Under advertising rules, a brand must be able to back up any claims of superiority with evidence.
Three is the only operator to hold a 100MHz contiguous block of spectrum, which it has said will make its 5G services faster and more reliable.
The firm acknowledged that the technicalities of 5G were not well understood by consumers, but said there was a limit to how much could be explained in an advert and said more detailed information was available on its website.
But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the limited take-up of 5G at launch meant any differences in capacity between networks were unlikely to be experienced by customers at the time of the ad.
“Given that, we considered Three’s 5G service was not, at that time, likely to be so significantly better than other 5G services as to render them not ‘real’ 5G, or such that there was little value in obtaining those services,” the watchdog said in its ruling.
The ASA said the advert was therefore misleading and should not appear again in its current form.
The verdict brings to an end one conflict in a long-running rivalry between UK telecoms firms as they battle for dominance in a cut-throat market.
However, in an apparent easing of tensions the four operators — O2, Vodafone, EE and Three — earlier this month reached a compromise on a mast-sharing agreement to help boost mobile signal in rural areas.