AT&T is roiling over those cell phone service ads that supposedly show the superiority of Verizon Wireless's coverage. Tomorrow, U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten will hear AT&T's request for a court order to stop Verizon from using the maps in its commercials. Here's what it boils down to:
1. AT&T says Verizon's maps are misleading to consumers. The advertisements show two maps of the continental U.S.: The Verizon one is virtually covered in red, indicating the breadth of Verizon's 3G coverage. The other is speckled with blue -- showing AT&T's 3G coverage, and indicating it is rather spotty. The key here is that the maps are illustrating 3G coverage, not cellular service in general. AT&T is arguing not that the maps are bogus, but that at a quick look, a casual observer would get the incorrect impression that AT&T does not offer wireless service in most of the U.S.
2. Verizon says it is pointing out what has been painfully obvious to iPhone users for a while now. It maintains that AT&T failed to invest properly in the necessary infrastructure to expand its 3G coverage to support its growth in smartphone business. Without the adequate upgrades, smartphone users are not able to use their devices to their fullest potential. It also asserts the ads clearly state the comparisons focus on 3G coverage.
3. AT&T is making an attempt to show the world that it in fact has a broad coverage area -- it's just not as up-to-date as Verizon's. That is not exactly something to call attention to, but the company has said that the campaign is doing irreparable harm, based on consumer confusion about what the ads are actually saying. AT&T would do well to promote upcoming enhancements to its network rather than constantly play defense to Verizon.
Verizon, meanwhile, is obviously champing at the bit to gain some of AT&T's share -- its recent debut of the Motorola Droid is clearly aimed at wooing some of AT&T's disaffected Apple iPhone users.