CTIA 2012: AT&T Wireless chief slaps down T-Mobile's comically misleading new ad

New ad assaults empiricism on multiple fronts

One of the more ironic moments of this afternoon's wireless CEO session at CTIA came right after Sprint CEO Dan Hesse had just finished chastising his fellow carriers for producing ads that mislead consumers about the speeds of their assorted "4G" networks.  T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm strolled onstage, said a few words about the state of his company and then... showed the crowd a misleading ad about "4G" network speeds!  Take a look:

The most misleading tactic this ad employs is comparing the data speeds of T-Mobile's absolute fastest technology with the data speeds of AT&T's legacy technology.  How does it do this, you ask?  Well it compares the speeds of its own HSPA+ network, which produces average download speeds in the 3.8Gbps to 5.5Mbps range according to PC World, with the speed you can get on the Apple iPhone on AT&T.  No, it doesn't compare its network to AT&T's wireless network as a whole, it compares its network to the performance of one single device on AT&T's network.  This is particularly significant because the device in question, the iPhone 4S, does not have LTE connectivity.  If T-Mobile had compared its HSPA+ network to a device that ran over AT&T's LTE network, such as the HTC One X, then it would have gotten its butt beaten in since the AT&T LTE network has average download speeds of more than 9Mbps.

Another point: Do you know one of the reasons that AT&T has seen such significant subscriber growth over the past few years?  Ding, ding!  That's right!  It's because it offers the iPhone.  You may have heard of it.  It's a somewhat popular little item that T-Mobile doesn't offer.  Don't get me wrong, T-Mobile does offer several quality devices, but you simply can't tell me that the carrier wouldn't sell its own children to work in a sewage treatment plant for the chance to have it on its network right now.

Needless to say, when AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega was asked about the ad by panel moderator Jim Cramer, he was not amused.

"You see what he's doing, right?  He's comparing a phone to a network," he said.  De la Vega also said that carriers faced a deficit of trust among the general public because of ads that "take the truth and stretch it."

To be fair, AT&T has long been one of the leading culprits in branding HSPA+ services as "4G," so in a way the T-Mobile ad is poetic justice.  But all the same, anyone who has any basic knowledge of wireless technologies should see this ad for the gigantic crock that it is.

(Note: I have no bias for or against either carrier.  I've been a Verizon subscriber for the past four years.)

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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