AT&T sues Verizon over 'there's a map for that' ads

Whoa -- we just got word that AT&T is suing Verizon for false advertising over Big Red's "There's a map for that" ads. We're reading the complaint and motion to stop the ads right now, but here's what AT&T says is the big problem:

In essence, we believe the ads mislead consumers into believing that AT&T doesn't offer ANY wireless service in the vast majority of the country. In fact, AT&T's wireless network blankets the US, reaching approximately 296M people. Additionally, our 3G service is available in over 9,600 cities and towns. Verizon's misleading advertising tactics appear to be a response to AT&T's strong leadership in smartphones. We have twice the number of smartphone customers... and we've beaten them two quarters in a row on net post-paid subscribers. We also had lower churn -- a sign that customers are quite happy with the service they receive.

AT&T also says its network reaches about the same number of people as Verizon's, so we're thinking it's a little miffed that it's being portrayed as an also-ran here. We'll update as we learn more, keep it locked!

Update: So this seems like a very narrow lawsuit, actually. As we've been told, AT&T thinks Verizon is trying to fool viewers into thinking that they can't use any AT&T phone services outside of 3G coverage areas by showing two essentially different maps. Since Verizon's entire network is 3G, the gaps in the red map are actual service gaps -- but Verizon doesn't show that the gaps on the AT&T map might be covered by AT&T's huge 2G network. We can see how that could be misleading, but at some point you've got to compare apples to apples, and AT&T even says it has "no quarrel with Verizon advertising its larger 3G network" in its complaint, so we'll see how the court reacts.

Update 2: Interestingly, Verizon's already changed the ads once at AT&T's behest, editing them to remove the phrase "out of touch" and adding a "Voice and data services available outside of 3G areas" small print disclaimer at the end. Apparently that wasn't enough for AT&T, which says the ads still confuse non-technical viewers into thinking AT&T provides no service at all outside of its 3G coverage.

Update 3: Okay, we've read everything -- there's really not much more to this suit than the arguments over the maps. We're thinking Verizon could have easily dealt with this by just using dark blue and light blue on the AT&T map to differentiate between 3G and 2G coverage, but at this point we don't think Ma Bell is all that interested in anything except getting these ads off the air. All that said, it's hard to deny that Verizon's ads made a perfectly valid point: using an iPhone on AT&T's network in New York or San Francisco is an exercise in frustration, regardless of whether you have 2G or 3G, and we've had zero problems on Verizon. Let's just hope AT&T is working as hard to fight these ads with its actual service as it is with its lawyers.

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