AT&T 3G Lawsuit Laughed Out of Court

In the days leading up to the release of the Google Android-based DROID smartphone, wireless giant Verizon launched a flurry of ads purporting to show that its 3G wireless network was demonstrably more widespread than rival AT&T's. AT&T, of course, is the exclusive US carrier for the Apple iPhone, and—as any iPhone user will tell you—AT&T's 3G network is tiny, ill-equipped to handle the iPhone's voluminous data traffic, and often completely unavailable. But AT&T shot back against Verizon, anyway, challenging Verizon's claims in court. But now, less than a month later, the lawsuit has been dismissed after a judge denied AT&T's request for a temporary restraining order.

The reason? Put simply, Verizon's ads are accurate.

"The truth hurts," Verizon noted in a statement. "AT&T did not file this lawsuit because Verizon's advertisements are untrue; AT&T sued because Verizon's ads are true."

At issue is an ad campaign called "There's a map for that," which is a takeoff of Apple's "There's an app for that" campaign for the iPhone. In the Apple ads, various iPhone apps are promoted to show that the iPhone platform has an app for virtually any need. In Verizon's case, the comparison is of AT&T's and Verizon's respective 3G networks, using a map of the United States to demonstrate each. Verizon's 3G map covers most of the country, while AT&T's is a spotty, barely visible web of tiny strands of coverage.

In other words, Verizon's ads and their depiction of each 3G network are accurate.

AT&T complained that the ads distorted the fact that AT&T's overall wireless network, which includes 3G coverage as well as older-generation, slower, non-3G networks, is more widespread than what is shown in the ads. But the Verizon ads never compared the overall size of both networks. They only compare 3G coverage, which is what smartphone users are looking for since the 3G areas transmit data at acceptable speeds.

"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 smartphone business, and the usefulness of its service to smartphone users has suffered accordingly," a Verizon court filing reads. "AT&T may not like the message that the ads send, but this Court should reject its efforts to silence the messenger."

The court did just that. And while that may seem like bad news for AT&T, the truth is, no one was ever fooled by the company's legal grandstanding. It's 3G network is widely considered the be the shoddiest of the major wireless networks in the United States, a fact that was coincidentally confirmed this past month in the latest issue of Consumer Reports, which rated AT&T's overall cell phone network as the worst of the major carriers. Even its voice network received the dreaded lowest possible score from the publication. When it comes to "irreparable harm," AT&T is its own worst enemy.

Is there an app for that?

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