AT&T fires back at Verizon with its own TV ad

New ad hits airwaves hours after courtroom defeat

AT&T may have lost the first round in its lawsuit against Verizon Wireless and its TV ads yesterday, but the company is fighting back with a new TV ad of its own.

The ad, featuring actor Luke Wilson, ran for the first time last night during several nationally broadcast TV shows, just hours after a federal judge announced in court that he was denying AT&T's request to temporarily stop the Verizon ads, and was continuing the case to a full hearing next month.

In the new AT&T ad, Wilson asks, "Who offers the best 3G experience? Let's compare." He stands before a chart comparing AT&T and Verizon, placing an X under one carrier for each answer to five questions:

"Who has the nation's fastest 3G network? AT&T...

"Which network lets you talk and surf the Web at the same time? AT&T ...

"The most popular smartphones?...

"Access to over 100,000 apps? ...

"Um, name that starts with the letter 'V'? Hey, they got one."

When Wilson adds an X to Verizon's column for having a name starting with the letter V, the X falls off the chart to the floor.

An announcer concludes, "When you compare, there's no comparison. AT&T -- a better 3G experience."

The ad goes somewhat further than discussing 3G networks of the two providers, mentioning the 100,000 apps in the Apple App Store that can be accessed with the iPhone, sold exclusively by AT&T. The ability to simultaneously surf the Web and talk is mentioned by AT&T as an advantage over Verizon, but analysts have noted that doing both at once is somewhat cumbersome unless you use a Bluetooth or wired connection to the smartphone for listening (and talking) while holding the device far enough away to use your hands to surf.

But it is largely the iPhone and its ability to download apps that has drawn attention to AT&T's network. Many iPhone owners and analysts have complained about the AT&T networks not serving iPhone's multimedia needs. IDC analyst Scott Ellison recently said AT&T had "immolated itself with network capacity issues."

Verizon's five TV ads boast that Verizon has five times as many square miles of 3G coverage nationwide than AT&T's 3G network.

The heart of the AT&T lawsuit, filed Nov. 3, is AT&T's concern that Verizon's ads are "misleading" and show maps with 3G coverage shown in blue, and other coverage in white. By indicating all areas outside of 3G in white, AT&T argued that Verizon is implying there is no network coverage at all in those white areas. Instead, AT&T argues that the white areas include many areas of 2G network coverage that supplants 3G coverage.

Verizon has taken the position that its maps are accurate comparisons of 3G coverage by the separate carriers.

AT&T yesterday sought a temporary restraining order to stop the Verizon ads, but U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten in Atlanta denied that request and set Dec. 16 for a full preliminary hearing on the lawsuit. AT&T is seeking unspecified damages.

Today, an AT&T spokesman said the timing of the AT&T ad after yesterday's court hearing was "coincidental." In general, the new AT&T ad is designed "to make very clear to our customers what the advantages of our network are and when you compare, there's no comparison," said the spokesman, Mark Siegel. "We want to make sure customers have the facts and know the advantages of AT&T."

He also said that AT&T continues to "look forward to presenting our case" in December.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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