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UPDATED: In Ad Fight, AT&T Admits Its Coverage Is Inferior to Verizon's, But Sues Anyway

UPDATE: The judge ruled against AT&T's bid to get a temporary injuction stopping Verizon's ads. AT&T will get another chance to stop the ads at a hearing in December. In a legal fight over the advertising for Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T)'s rival 3G cellphone networks, AT&T has admitted that its 3G network is smaller and that Verizon's ads are "literally true based on square miles." (This explains, in part, why calls to iPhone users so often end up in voicemail.)

It's an odd -- and possibly suicidal -- legal strategy for AT&T, which brought the suit in the first place. AT&T is claiming that Verizon's "There's a map for that" campaign falsely portrays AT&T's 3G coverage as being a scanty network based mostly over the East and West Coasts, with vast voids over the rest of the country. By contrast, the ads show the same map for Verizon, with most of the entire country covered in red, Verizon's familiar trade dress color. Verizon claims "5X More 3G Coverage" in its ads.

AT&T sued Verizon for false advertising. AT&T complains that just because its 3G network is not available, customers can still utilize its lower-speed networks. AT&T almost apologizes for this in its complaint:

A customer can do everything on AT&T's "2.5G" or GSM/EDGE network that he or she can do on a "3G" network, it just might be slower in a non-"3G" coverage area, depending on the data application.
AT&T then rattles off a raft of stats, all of which favor Verizon over AT&T:
AT&T's "3G" network covers approximately 233 million people where they live and work, or 75% of the U.S. population, and is concentrated in U.S. population centers. By contrast, as stated in Verizon's Third Quarter 2009 Investor Briefing, Verizon's mobile broadband or "3G" network covers approximately 284 million people, or 91% of the U.S. population.
AT&T's 3G network is only 82% the size of verizon's, AT&T claims. Furthermore:
In all of the advertisements described above, Verizon makes the misleading statement that it has "5 times more '3G' coverage than AT&T." While this statement is literally true based on square miles, it is misleading because the overwhelming majority of the US population lives and works where both Verizon and AT&T have "3G" coverage.
Indeed, from a population standpoint, Verizon only has 1.24 times more "3G" coverage than AT&T (285 million people/230 million people).
[Emphasis added.] Unsurprisingly, Verizon has had an easy time rebutting AT&T's 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.
A judge has yet to rule on the injunction against the ads requested by AT&T. But there have been two rulings so far permitting lawyers to use their cellphones in court.

Hat tip to ZDNet.

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