AT&T, Luke Wilson try smaller coverage number

In a new Luke Wilson ad, AT&T claims its 3G network covers 230 million people. This contrasts with ads from November that featured total coverage rather than just 3G.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

I'm not the best in the world at counting. And I'm definitely not the best in the world at counting on damp, cloudy days.

But during a passionately meaningless bowl game Friday, Luke Wilson interrupted my soporifia with a new ad and what I thought was a new fact: AT&T's network, I thought he said, covers "over 230 million Americans".

The ad then wafted off to a dreamland as Wilson persuades someone in a diner to friend request all of these people. My mind, on the other hand, wafted back to November when Wilson began AT&T's fightback against Verizon's taunts.

In one of the first ads, the one about the postcards, there is Wilson, in a sad brown jacket and equally depressed brown shirt, saying these words: "AT&T covers 97 percent of all Americans, that's over 300 million people."

For one uncomfortable moment, I feared that in the last few days 70 million people, so upset that AT&T was severing its ties with Tiger Woods, had moved to some dark part of South Dakota (or New York) to ensure that they could not be reached by AT&T.

Realizing this was quite absurd, I wondered whether there had been an acerbic exchange of missives between lawyers for AT&T and Verizon, in which brows were furrowed and numbers were parsed. Or whether someone had embedded copious amounts of candle wax in my earholes, so much that the wax was now affecting my brain.

Trying to get past the fact that Wilson still looks rather pasty, I listened again and again. I realized that in the new ad Wilson actually says: "AT&T's 3G network covers more than 230 million people."

Yes, the "3G network" is the vital nuance. It doesn't cover 97 percent of Americans, but it does still cover a large number. One that is, more or less, around 70 million smaller than the number that AT&T's total network covers.

I suppose one might presume this to be a coded message to more than 230 million Americans that, despite Verizon's aggressive besmirchments, they should not worry. Their personal self worth can still be uplifted by obtaining an iPhone that will definitely make calls and download gossip Web sites and farting apps.

However, do we now wait for the Verizon ad that says its own 3G network covers, oh, say, 70 million more Americans than, say, AT&T's? That couldn't be the case, could it?

I'm only asking because John Stratton, Verizon's chief marketing officer, said at a conference a few weeks ago that the difference between Verizon's coverage and AT&T's was "almost astounding."

It's a new year and I'd like to be astounded by how astounding "almost astounding" really is. Wouldn't you?