Brazilian Carrier Comes Up With Tricksy '4.5G' Logo—and Now It Might Get Fined

My dudes, have you seen what a 4 looks like?
My dudes, have you seen what a 4 looks like?
Screenshot: Claro

Yes, 5G is coming, but it’s definitely not here yet. Brazilian carrier Claro seems to by trying to get around that pesky fact with a sneaky “4.5G” marketing campaign that could result in fines for misleading advertising.

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There’s nothing blatantly devious about Claro labeling its faster-than-4G-but-not-5G speeds “4.5G.” What’s ridiculous is the logo its using to promote the service. In Claro’s ads, the 4 is noticeably smaller. Depending on which version of the logo you’re looking at, it may not even look like a 4. The ads gained international attention when they were sent to The Verge last week, and it appears Brazilian officials have taken notice.

Procon-SP, São Paulo’s state consumer protection agency, told Brazilian news outlet Canaltech this week that at least one consumer has already complained about Claro’s 4.5G service, believing it to be proper 5G. In a statement to tech site Tecmundo, Claro claimed that the font size had already been discussed with Conar, the Brazilian ad industry’s self-regulatory watchdog, and its 4.5G design follows international standards.

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Sure. Procon-SP seems to think differently. The agency’s executive director, Fernando Capez, told Canaltech that not only is the wonky sizing and design of the 4 potentially misleading, but that such advertising is prohibited by Brazil’s Code of Consumer Protection. “Procon-SP will notify Claro and then we will, depending on the clarifications, impose a fine for this telephone operator,” Capez said.

Claro’s website claims its network is technologically the same as AT&T’s 5GE network—another instance of tricky marketing right here in the U.S. The “E” in 5GE basically stands for “evolution” and is a rebrand of enhanced 4G LTE speeds that utilize 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and carrier aggregation tech.

It’s troubling that this sort of misleading 5G marketing isn’t isolated to one carrier or country. AT&T’s 5GE branding is bad, Claro’s 4.5 ads are also bad, and Hong Kong carrier SmarTone’s 4.5G logo is arguably the worst of them all. It’s going to be a while before real 5G is here in a meaningful capacity. In the meantime, don’t believe the ads you see.

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We have reached out to Claro for comment and will update this story if and when it responds.

Updated, 2/22/2019, 2:25pm:

Claro responded to us with the following statement:

“Claro clarifies that its 4.5G logo follows international standards. The size of the source was already a topic of discussion last year at Conar (National Council for Self-Regulatory Advertising), which acknowledged that Claro’s 4.5G spelling adheres to legal and publicity standards of Brazil. Claro reinforces that the company hasn’t received any notifications or fine by any responsible authorities”

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Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.

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DISCUSSION

sing-electric
sing.electric

I mean, it’s a little misleading, but the logo is still pretty obviously “4.5G” to my eyes, and “4.5G” as a moniker is fine with me.

4G speeds today are much higher than they were at the turn of the decade when LTE (and WiMax) were first coming to phones, and chances are, initial 5G devices won’t be much faster with downloads/latency than newer 4G devices (with the possible exception that there won’t be much competition for 5G bandwidth initially - but you don’t say a car is faster than another because one is on an empty highway and the other is stuck in traffic).

Besides, for existing applications, 5G is likely to have a smaller impact than 4G, 3G or 2G did. 3G added (for GSM) simultaneous voice and data, and really let “real internet” be practical on mobile devices, 4G (and 3.5G, if we’re being honest) made video streaming (both ways), etc. a real possibility. 5G will just... be a bit faster. There might be potential for say, low-latency game streaming, using remote servers to handle the processing, but that’s an edge case.

The real applications for 5G are things that aren’t really possible with 4G, like challenging cable and telcos for last-mile fixed wireless speeds, or capacity for an increased # of devices enabling IoT applications.