Verizon Dupes Customers with LTE Half-Truths

by Matt Klassen on November 2, 2012

Recently Verizon unveiled a new round of television commercials focused on its 4G LTE coverage. One ad in particular opens with a focus group looking at charts detailing the LTE coverage of America’s Top Four carriers, with Verizon clearly coming out on top in each one. While only 30 seconds long, the commercial repeatedly drills the focus group on which company would be the easy choice, the obvious answer being, of course, Verizon.

The commercial ends with the Verizon representative concluding that “it doesn’t matter how you present it,” referring to the obviousness of the cold hard facts, but given the tenuous half-truths the entire commercial is based on, the tag line should probably refer to Verizon’s take on truthfulness in marketing.

Sure the commercial makes Verizon look better than its competitors, but it does so at the cost of full disclosure. Simply put, while Verizon isn’t lying, it’s not telling the whole truth, and the way it communicates those half-truths will undoubtedly have customers thinking something that is entirely untrue: that Verizon offers better and faster service than its rivals.

As the Yiddish proverb states, “A half-truth is a whole lie.” While I’m still quite certain that there is no  legal recourse against Verizon for this brand of semi-false advertising, if the public knew the truth behind Verizon’s claims not only would they find these commercials completely meaningless (and quite annoying), but they might think less of Verizon for trying to trick them.

The point of the commercial, as I mentioned, is to advertise Verizon’s 4G LTE coverage. The graphs shown to the focus group aren’t lying when they show Verizon out front in the LTE roll-out race, but the conclusions the company is hoping you infer from that fact are completely untrue.

Given that 4G LTE coverage on its own is completely meaningless, the commercial implies that Verizon offers better and faster network performance than its rivals, rolling out the wireless buzzwords “4G” and “LTE,” knowing that a relatively uneducated consumer base will assume coverage of this upgraded technology equates to service…but that’s simply not true.

The reality is that customers don’t really care about coverage or even buzzwords, they care about speed, stability, and overall network performance, and while that’s something Verizon is certainly able to deliver to some customers, it’s not something its able to deliver to all customers. Of course Verizon would have you believe that because of its expansive coverage it’s the default 4G LTE choice, but the reality is that “No carrier offers high-speed to all customers in all locations.”

The misleading nature of this particular Verizon ad lies in the way the questions are asked; making it seem like 4G LTE is the only way to achieve higher network speeds. But as you may know, other companies like AT&T are able to reach ‘4G’ speeds using a mixture of LTE and HSPA+ technologies, a point that Verizon avoids altogether. Its tricking a naïve marketplace and it should be ashamed.

In the end, the only part of this commercial that’s truth is also the part that’s meaningless. Since customers really only care about network performance, boasting about coverage is a moot point, given the fact that some of those other ‘rival’ networks are able to achieve the same network speeds as Verizon using other technologies.

Here’s a word of advice for Verizon: Don’t mislead your customer base, its insulting. Half-truths are no way to educate your viewership, it’s a way to fool them, and that will always come back to bite you.

So if speed matters to you, don’t think Verizon is the only choice. Explore the options in your region and you’ll find that not all carriers are created equal in all locations. Perhaps Verizon will be the right choice for you, but certainly not because of this commercial.

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Mike November 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Great article Matt at exposing some of the half-truths in the commercial.

However, I felt like your article came short and had some half-truths itself. I am not too highly educated but with some quick searching online, isn’t it true that LTE is faster than HSPA+ (300 Mbit/s versus 168 Mbit/s)? So while you argue Verizon is excluding the HSPA+ of competitors 4G network, you don’t mention that there is actually a speed difference.

Secondly, you start comparing 4G as if its all the same which as I stated above is not the case. It would have been a great educational piece if you explained that 4G is just a distinction of the International Telecommunication Union (part of the UN) for any mobile communication technology achieving over 100Mbit/s.

In summary, I enjoyed the first part of your article as it seemed you were trying to educate the layperson but clearly you missed the mark and laid some half-truth eggs yourself.

Matt Klassen November 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the feedback. I’ll be honest and say that I may have overstated the point a little when I wrote that it was untrue that Verizon doesn’t offer better or faster service than its rivals, but I tempered that by concluding that while Verizon might be the fastest in certain markets, its default performance across the nation should not be linked to its boasts about coverage. There are areas where AT&T offers the best network performance with HSPA+ only, and locations where its 4G beats the pants of Verizon’s.

Does Verizon offer 4G LTE that’s faster than HSPA+? Absolutely, but from that Verizon would have you conclude that its network offers the best performance coast to coast due to its superior coverage…that’s simply not true.

In regards to your second point, I’ve written extensively about the definitions of ‘4G’ and ‘LTE’. Here’s a few links:


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