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Advertising Watchdog Dings Three Over 5G Claims


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two TV spots from Three that claimed the mobile network has the “UK’s fastest 5G network” and the only “real 5G" network.

The ruling from the watchdog follows a complaint about the claims by rival Vodafone. ASA came down on Vodafone’s side, concluding that Three’s adverts were “misleading.” The ASA has banned the adverts but, as always, it’s behind the ball: the commercials (pictured) aired in March 2020.

The watchdog said: “We considered that Three had not shown that consumers on their 5G network would experience a significantly better 5G service versus other operators. Differences in the 5G services between networks, at the time the ad was seen, were unlikely to result in material differences in the experiences of end users such that Three’s service could be described as offering ‘real’ 5G, in contrast to their competitors. For those reasons, we concluded the claim ‘Join the future on Three, it’s real 5G’ was likely to mislead.”

The ASA said that in the future Three would need to provide “sufficient evidence” to support such claims.

This isn’t the first time Three has fallen afoul of advertising standards by claiming it has the only “real” 5G network in the UK. Last year, in response to complaints by EE, the ASA banned ads that claimed “If it’s not Three, it’s not real 5G.”

Three has been claiming superior 5G cred because for a while it held significantly more spectrum frequency in the 5G sweet spots around the 3-4GHz bands than its rivals did. However, the network lagged in launching 5G for mobile phones (rather than home broadband), only getting off the ground in February 2020. Since that launch, it hasn’t really backed up the grandiose claims: EE remains top for 5G speeds.

Meanwhile, a recent auction for radio spectrum by Ofgem evened the score, giving competitors more equal shares of 5G-friendly spectrum.

Three also got into trouble with the ASA earlier this year over TV and online advertisements that claimed it is the “Best Network for Data.” 

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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