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Verizon to AT&T: 'Truth Hurts' About Coverage Ads

Verizon is not backing down in the face of a lawsuit filed by rival AT&T requesting that it pull ads comparing the coverage areas of the two firms' 3G networks, which AT&T said are misleading.

AT&T (NYSE: T), the nation's second largest wireless company and sole domestic carrier of the wildly popular iPhone, earlier this month filed a lawsuit charging that Verizon's "There's a map for that" ad campaign inaccurately portrayed its 3G coverage.

Verizon is not only refusing to yank the ads, but is also sticking by the promotional claims.

"AT&T did not file this lawsuit because Verizon's 'There's a map for that' advertisements are untrue; AT&T sued because Verizon's ads are true and the truth hurts," Verizon shot back in a court document. "AT&T now is attempting to silence Verizon's ads that include maps graphically depicting the geographic reach of AT&T's 3G network as compared to Verizon's own 3G network because AT&T does not like the truthful picture painted by that comparison."

Verizon goes on to say that the court should not issue an immediate "restraining order" as AT&T requested without providing the chance for Verizon to conduct research that will prove that subscribers are not being misinformed by the ads.

For AT&T, the legal spat over the ads follows criticism of the carrier for its coverage and infrastructure performance as it has struggled to meet the demands of the data-hungry iPhone users.

Through its partnership with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) to offer the iPhone, AT&T has enjoyed record-breaking subscriber adds and account activations, but that success has been accompanied by rising complaints over spotty coverage. To that end, AT&T has dedicated resources to improving its infrastructure.

Still, Verizon claims AT&T has not done enough to deliver on its promise of 3G reliability.

"AT&T seeks emergency relief because Verizon's side-by-side, apples-to-apples comparison of its own 3G coverage with AT&T's confirms what the marketplace has been saying for months: AT&T failed to invest adequately in the necessary infrastructure to expand its 3G coverage to support its growth in [the] smartphone business, and the usefulness of its service to smartphone users has suffered accordingly," Verizon said. "AT&T may not like the message that the ads send, but this court should reject its efforts to silence the messenger."

For its part, AT&T maintains that the ads are deceptive. The side-by-side maps Verizon displays in the spots show its network blanketing the country in red, while AT&T's is a mostly white, with sparse blue dots that signify spotty 3G coverage. Of course, that doesn't mean that AT&T can't connect calls or load a Web page in areas not served by 3G -- it just might take a little longer.

"We haven't had a chance to review Verizon's document in detail. We can tell you, however, that we continue to feel strongly that their recent advertising is misleading because it leaves the impression that AT&T does not offer wireless service in most of the country. We look forward to presenting our case in court," an AT&T spokeswoman told InternetNews.com.

Meanwhile, Verizon, which has 88.9 million subscribers compared to AT&T's 81.6 million, is currently trying to generate some buzz in the profitable smartphone sector with a recent partnership with Google to develop and sell Android smartphones, including the Motorola Droid and Eris by HTC.

The Droid, which went on sale Nov. 6, is posting healthy sales numbers, according to industry observers and analysts, and was ushered to the market with a series of ads that directly took on perceived shortcomings of the iPhone.

A Verizon spokeswoman had not returned calls seeking comment by press time.