In an ongoing and increasingly intense battle to entice telecom consumers, Cingular Wireless LLC is suing rival Sprint Nextel Corp. over a recent ad campaign that urges consumers to switch to Sprint because “no one has a more powerful network.” Cingular, meanwhile, claims it is the one with the most powerful network, and is seeking money for damages. The lawsuit which was filed on May 9 2006 in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta follows a Sprint Nextel complaint with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, who challenged Cingular to validate an ad campaign that touted the Atlanta cellular giant as having the “fewest dropped calls.”
Cingular claims it does have fewer dropped calls than any other provider, due to its 2004 acquisition of AT&T Wireless’ network. The company recalls data from San Francisco-based research company Telephia Corp., but has repeatedly refused to release that data. Cingular also claims Sprint’s 2005 acquisition of Nextel “has not increased the coverage” for customers because the two networks are incompatible. The suit lays out, in detail, why Cingular is better than Sprint, including the fact that Cingular has 36 million more customers. Plus, according to Cingular, since they have double the number of Sprint’s cellular towers and a more “efficient” radio frequency, this makes Cingular’s broadcasts “stronger.”
“Faced with a distinct competitive disadvantage, Sprint has resorted to competing unfairly for new customers,” the suit says. It goes on: “Sprint’s network is not as powerful as, let alone more powerful than, Cingular’s wireless network.”
Cingular has spent a lot of money getting the message across that it has the best network. According to TNS Media Intelligence, Cingular spent $1.2 billion in 2005 on advertising, while Sprint Nextel spent $450 million. In addition to money, Cingular wants Sprint to produce new ads to “correct” its previous claims. Cingular also wants Sprint to end its own complaint with the Better Business Bureaus. The group’s national advertising division sent a letter April 17 to Cingular CEO Stan Sigman requiring him to provide proof of the company’s claims. Spokesman Mark Siegel said Cingular has that proof but he has declined to release the data to the public, saying it was up to Telephia to do so.
Cingular has also recently become a favorite punch line for Jay Leno whenever he needs a joke about an unreliable wireless network. Yet, a Cingular spokesperson still says, “By any objective measure, Cingular has a more powerful network than Sprint, and we think Sprint knows that.”