SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Verizon Wireless has won round one in the widely publicized legal tussle with rival AT&T, which recently sued the leading carrier over an ad campaign that AT&T claims misleads consumers about its network coverage. An Atlanta federal judge today denied a request by AT&T to force Verizon to halt its commercials, saying he found no evidence that the ads were inaccurate.
At issue is Verizon's "There's a map for that" ad campaign, which shows two maps, one with Verizon's 3G coverage blanketing the country, while another shows AT&T's coverage represented by sporadic clusters and mostly white space. While AT&T does not deny the campaign's veracity, it calls the map ads misleading. The No. 2 carrier claims the white space suggests AT&T offers no coverage at all in those areas.
"I think Verizon Wireless was using a technical argument, while AT&T was making an argument about perception," said wireless consultant Chetan Sharma. "From a legal perspective, the technical argument is stronger."
"We're disappointed with the court decision on the request for a temporary restraining order," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "We strongly feel Verizon Wireless ads are misleading consumers into thinking that AT&T doesn't offer services in large parts of the country, which is clearly not the case."
The decision was a victory for Verizon Wireless and comes as the wireless industry gets set for its busiest sales period of the year. The judge, however, granted AT&T another shot at the case in a hearing set for Dec. 16. Of course, that date cuts it close with Christmas, a hot selling season for mobile phones.
Network coverage such as 3G is becoming an increasingly important selling point for carriers, amid the growing adoption of smartphones, whose users can demand a lot of bandwidth for applications such as streaming video. Verizon strategically kicked off its map campaign weeks before it was to roll out its holiday flagship smartphone, the Droid.
Verizon has shown confidence it would prevail; days after AT&T filed the lawsuit, the carrier fired off another commercial that took aim at AT&T's 3G coverage. This time, it exiles the iPhone, of which AT&T is the exclusive carrier, to the Island of Misfit Toys, the habitat of broken and unwanted stuff that first appeared in a children's holiday special years ago.
In addition, Verizon said in a 53-page rebuttal this week that "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."