ASA bans Three’s ‘3.9G’ terminology after moany EE complains

ASA bans Three’s ‘3.9G’ terminology after moany EE complainsThe Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is no stranger to the world of mobile, having scolded Motorola’s “most powerful” Atrix in 2011, and more recently upholding BT’s complaint pertaining to EE’s “superfast” 4G.

Here EE is on the winning end (well, technically), having moaned to the ASA that Three’s “3.9G” terminology is potentially misleading.

See, UK network Three is clearly in no rush to roll out 4G, having long maintained that its DC-HSDPA service is almost as fast as 4G anyway.

As such, Three coined the term “3.9G”, a clear attempt to indicate to customers that they’re getting a service that’s almost on par with 4G.

That was enough to rile up EE, which scribbled a tear-stained letter to the ASA describing the 3.9G term - completely made up by Three - as “misleading”. Unfortunately for Three, the ASA agrees.

The delightful Carly Page of The Inquirer fame relays these ASA words, describing Three’s failed defence: "Three provided information on the differences between 3G DC-HSDPA and 4G LTE technology. [It] said it showed that DC-HSDPA was extremely close to 4G LTE in performance, and in some cases outperformed it.

“[It] said the 1, 2, 3 and 4 mobile phone generation technologies were not based on technical standards, but merely described the evolutionary nature of the user experience.

"[It] said that although they had not intended the term '3.9G' as a technical one, [it] believed it was not misleading because [its] DC-HSDPA network was very close in terms of capability to 4G LTE."

Alas, it was a thumbs-down from the ASA. Adding insult to injury, the ASA reckons Three’s claim: "Our Ultrafast network is built for more", is – as Carly writes – “unclear and not verifiable by consumers”.

One of these cases where the “winner” looks like a douche? You decide.

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8 comments

BrianBM  Jan. 23, 2014 at 23:09

Seems fair to me. The term '3.9G' is clearly intentionally misleading.

matt101101 / MOD  Jan. 24, 2014 at 13:50

Seems fair to me. The term '3.9G' is clearly intentionally misleading.
Not really, Three's DC-HSPA+ is pretty much on par with 4G in many cases, not to mention the fact it's far more widespread.

Technically, LTE isn't 4G either, but the world seems to have totally missed that one...

lcurdie / MOD  Jan. 24, 2014 at 14:17

Oddly, BrianBM's comment is pretty much the only one I can find on the cyberweb in favour of EE (other than someone pointing out that there's a significant difference in the upload speeds).

And surprise, surprise; not a single Three customer saying: "I was misled." Actually, why is the term misleading? Surely 3.9G suggests a service that's almost - but not quite - as fast as 4G. What's the problem with that? Would Apple be annoyed if Samsung said the Galaxy S4 was almost as fast as the iPhone 5s?

Amusingly, one guy questions EE's definition of "shedload", as in a "shedload of data", which in their case means as little as 1GB. Pretty small shed.

shuwaz  Jan. 24, 2014 at 22:34

I've been with Three for years now and am quite happy with their 3G DC-HSDPA service. As mentioned 4G isn't even true LTE so as long as T-Mobile and Orange (make that EE - sorry guys but you've make it confusing) feel they can mislead customers they can't really complain much about Three. Or are they just scared of loosing customers due to the Monopoly-styled 4G tariffs?

Harryisme  Jan. 25, 2014 at 02:54

It's a odd one, on one end it could be considerd misleading, but on the other hand if what three claim is true and they can prove it, I don't see why they can't coin the phrase 3.9 for their service....specially if the service they provide is the closest you can get to 4G speeds Three are not calling their service 4G, and not claiming it to be.

Maybe the ASA should ban Apple from naming their latest tablet ipad Air, it's obviously is not made of air or as light as air, so the name is misleading.

timy  Jan. 25, 2014 at 10:51



Maybe the ASA should ban Apple from naming their latest tablet ipad Air, it's obviously is not made of air or as light as air, so the name is misleading.


its not even an apple

O2fangirl  Jan. 27, 2014 at 23:31

3.9G isn't real which is why it should have been banned. however, if they had said "our network is so close to 4G speeds, if we could describe it as 3.9G, we would" I wouldn't have a problem :D

is that a loophole in ASA rules?

matt101101 / MOD  Jan. 28, 2014 at 10:06

3.9G isn't real which is why it should have been banned. however, if they had said "our network is so close to 4G speeds, if we could describe it as 3.9G, we would" I wouldn't have a problem :D

is that a loophole in ASA rules?

LTE isn't 4G either, but no one is complaining about that.

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