AT&T: Verizon ads are 'blatantly false'

The wireless provider, which has been taking a beating in a series of parody ads over its 3G coverage, adds heat to its lawsuit. No word on what the misfit toys think.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

AT&T wants to set the record straight about its 3G wireless coverage.

The company has placed a statement on its Web site defending itself against critical advertisements Verizon Wireless has been running that highlight areas of the country where AT&T lacks 3G coverage.

"We typically don't respond to competitors' advertising," AT&T said in its statement. "However, some recent ads from Verizon are so blatantly false and misleading that we want to set the record straight about AT&T's wireless-data coverage."

Verizon's initial advertisement, which began airing on TV a couple of weeks ago, mocks Apple's "there's an app for that" slogan. Instead, Verizon's advertisement says "there's a map for that."

The ad campaign shows two maps with red-and-white splotches. The white area indicates no 3G coverage, and the red indicates areas where 3G service is available. In the ad, Verizon shows an AT&T map that has lots of white spaces, whereas the Verizon map is almost covered in red.

AT&T has filed a lawsuit claiming that the ad is misleading because it implies that AT&T customers can't use their phones in areas where the carrier does not offer 3G wireless coverage.

Verizon has modified its ad slightly to indicate that the map applies only to 3G coverage and not regular 2.5G service, which is adequate for making voice calls and connecting to the wireless Internet at slower speeds.

But AT&T is still not happy with the adjustment, and the company wants Verizon to stop running the ads or to alter them further.

What's more, AT&T has added a complaint about a newer Verizon commercial, which characterizes the iPhone as a new arrival to the Isles of Misfit Toys, to the lawsuit. The Isles of Misfit Toys refers to an island where broken toys and misfits would go in the popular Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas special.

In the ad, a toy elephant asks the iPhone what it's doing with the misfits, since it has so many cool apps. The iPhone doesn't really answer, instead flashing the AT&T map, which indicates the spotty 3G coverage. All the toys seem to understand.

AT&T hasn't launched ads of its own to combat the Verizon commercials. But the company's statement on its Web site is its attempt to refute many of Verizon's claims. For example, AT&T points out that its data coverage reaches 303 million people, or 97 percent of the U.S. population, using a mix of wireless technologies. Of course, AT&T admits that not all of these customers are able to access the faster 3G network; only 75 percent of the U.S. population can get access to AT&T's 3G wireless network.

AT&T also emphasizes in its statement that it has twice as many smartphone customers as Verizon. And it says it offers the most popular smarpthone in the industry, the Apple iPhone. AT&T says it offers more mobile applications than its competitors. And finally, it points out that it has the fastest 3G wireless network in the nation, a claim some customers who use the service may question.

There's no question that Verizon's ads are hard-hitting. But it's difficult to say whether they have affected consumers' purchase decisions. Anecdotally, it looks like the ads might have helped Verizon win a few customers. One Motorola Droid customer I interviewed at a Verizon store in New York this week said he decided not to buy the iPhone because of the Verizon ads he saw on TV.

"I was considering the iPhone," said Henry Goodison, of the Bronx borough. "But I saw a commercial about AT&T's 3G coverage. It said, 'Here is AT&T's 3G coverage, and here is ours.' And I thought it would be better to have Verizon, if I travel to another state, where AT&T doesn't have 3G coverage."