AT&T Doesn't Work In Area It Advertises

AT&T has a new campaign advertises how it “works in more places like,” and then lists a fictional place that’s a mashup of three cities. The ads are appearing in the tunnels and trains of Washington DC Metro, a real place, where AT&T really doesn’t work. Only Verizon works down there. Commenter XianZomby writes, “I think before ATT works on getting their wireless network in places that don’t exist, they should focus on getting their cell phones to work in places where they advertise cell phone service.”

(Photo: Robert Dubois)


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  1. youbastid says:

    Totes irrelevent. There have been cell phone ads in subways for years.

  2. youbastid says:


  3. Parting says:

    They little phrase means nothing. That’s why AT&T uses it. Same thing in Canada, her Rogers (AT&T here) says that it’s has the best network in Canada, which is bull. GSM in North America has less coverage and antennas then CDMA. But once again, it’s a meaningless phrase. So other companies cannot sue them.

  4. deadlizard says:

    You should talk about the “CHI” part in the ad’s city mashup. A
    Fisher Price walkie-talkie has better coverage in Chicago than AT&T.

  5. rjhiggins says:

    What a ridiculous post.

  6. PeteyNice says:

    I saw an ad for a movie in the subway today. Does that mean that they are going to show it there? Of course not.

  7. majortom1981 says:

    Well here on long island att works in places that verizon doesnt. So i wouldnt bash just att.

  8. Maude Buttons says:

    Is there a reason why Verizon is the only provider that works in the Metro? Why can’t T-Mobile or AT&T or Cingular?

    (Of course, the question is really, “Why can’t any cell phone company work — period. But for this moment, let’s just stick with the Metro question. Because seriously: bugs.)

  9. Quellman says:

    @Maude Buttons:

    Because one is CDMA and one is GSM??

  10. PeteyNice says:
  11. noquarter says:

    @Maude Buttons: I think they got an exclusive contract with the DC metro to provide cell service in exchange for building an emergency radio system for the subway while they were building their cell system. They also pay Metro a percent of their profits from cell phone usage.

  12. SamTheGeek says:

    Verizon paidbribed metro to let them have exclusive coverage in the tunnels. AT&T works whenever the metro is aboveground and in some underground(but not deep) stations. TMobile works only aboveground, and Sprint shows “roaming” but there is no service. Verizon advertises in such a way that it looks like all of their services work in the tunnel, but only voice works, and not well.

  13. sxs3200 says:

    How much longer until the Verizon exclusivity contract is up in the DC metro?

  14. Zerkaboid says:


    It’s China (note the Great Wall in the picture). Not that it matters at all.

  15. fairweather says:

    Just the smug ads are enough for me.

  16. He says:

    I’ve had friends get sprint calls down there, but not as reliably as verizon which isn’t exactly super either. Nice people only use texts anyhoo and those will send when you hit an above ground area.

  17. Funny. Verizon does the same thing… sort-of. I see FiOS advertisements on TV and along the streets and yet know damn good and well I can’t get it.

  18. Munsoned says:

    I think Congress was recently looking at the Verizon exclusivity contract but of course opted not to do anything about it for now (that, seriously, is just off the top of my head).

    You are correct: voice works, data does not. Blackberry addicts (like myself) are SOL.

    Do cell phones work in NYC subways?

  19. Beerad says:

    @ErnieMcCracken: Not yet, praise Jeebus! They’re considering a proposal to install whatever to make the subways cell-accessible, but I sincerely hope it never happens. Commuting is stressful enough without 2/3 of the people yammering loudly into phones.

  20. SadSam says:

    I was wondering about t.v. ads that I kept seeing for Sonic (fast food pretending to be old fashioned drive in) every other day for months. Not that I eat fast food, but I was perplexed by the ads running in an area where they had no locations. I even went on the sonic web site to find the closest location which was 500+ miles away. As an aside, yes I am a bit too curious for my own good. Anywho, I totally came across a random sonic about 10 minutes away from my house. Its seems a shame that sonic paid all kinds of money for ads and never mentioned their new location (I assume that was the reason for all the t.v. spots) on any of those ads, it seems a waste of ad money

  21. Zombietime says:

    So far everyone I know with an iphone and at&t says the service is awful.

  22. Jay Levitt says:

    Am I the only one that thought this campaign was so awful it MUST be a parody by a competitor?

    I mean, AT&T/Cingular already is known for having such lousy coverage that their recent “best coverage” campaign was thoroughly mocked and debunked.

    And now, they’ve responded by… telling us how much great coverage they have in areas with made-up names?

    It’s just begging for a response campaign. BEGGING.

    Man, if I were Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile, you know what I’d do? I’d buy two billboards in a row. In the first billboard, I’d put up the actual AT&T ad, untouched. “AT&T works in more places like Chilondoscow.”

    In the second: “T-Mobile, on the other hand, works in more places like Chicago, London, and Moscow.”

  23. spinachdip says:

    @Beerad: Ever ride on a line that goes above ground in the outer boroughs? Boy, that’s fun. 50 people yelling variations of “Hey, I’m on the train. The train just came out of the tunnel. I’ll be home in 5 minutes. Loveyoubye!” is quite something.

    Also, signals come in decently in some areas that are just below street level (i.e. 6 at Bleecker St).

  24. maevro says:

    AT&T gives me UMTS and HSDPA, T-Mobile wont. NUFF SAID.

  25. The Dude says:

    This ad campaign is so annoying and self-serving. First time you see it, it’s a 4 out of 10 on creativity. After that, you get the idea and am I the only one who isn’t going to spend any brain power trying to figure out words in an ad? Hopefully is on its death-bed, along with Comcast’s version of it for their Triple-Play offer.

  26. JPropaganda says:

    Actually, Sprint works quite well in the DC Metro as well.

  27. GearheadGeek says:

    @SadSam: Mmmm… Sonic. chili-cheese tater tots and cherry limeade. Evil.

  28. humphrmi says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t more about how the ad industry sells markets than where mobile phone companies work.

  29. jamar0303 says:

    Bah. Here in China cellphones WILL work on the subway. I’d be pissed if it didn’t (I read RSS feeds when I’m bored). Sucks for America.

  30. Supposedly wrapped up in all the other brew-ha-ha currently before the D.C. metro (fare hikes, purple line, etc.), they were trying to get/pondering allowing other cellular providers to install antennas in the tunnels.

    To summarize: kind of a dumb post, but yes oddly ironic, and likely to be totally not-ironic eventually.

  31. edwardso says:

    @SadSam: Are you in DC? Because if you are I want to know where this sonic is

  32. KernelPanic says:

    Can they get it to work in Sanf#c

    Seriously, dropped calls and half coversations?

    Ever since Cingular went away reception has been horrible.


    PS Sorry for the french bit above.

  33. KernelPanic says:

    My comment seems lost in the submit process but the jist was San effing Diego.

  34. FLConsumer says:

    Nah, the best one is an AT&T store in Tampa where they truly DO NOT have service. Instead, the store has a small repeater on the roof which makes sure all of the phones show 5 bars inside the store. Go outside about 50 feet away from the store and you’ve got no service.

  35. bornconsumer says:

    DisneyMobile has announced that they are shutting down US services 12/31/2007. When we went to Disney World (Florida)this past summer, the DisneyMobile service did not work in parts of the park. I was told by DisneyMobile that it was because ‘Disney does not want towers in their parks, so coverage was not complete’. No wonder they are shutting down.

  36. Major-General says:

    @FLConsumer: Sounds like the AT&T kiosk rep at my local mall who seemed to ignore me when I told him that I didn’t consider AT&T for my new cell service because I had been tired of my bosses calling me when they couldn’t call each other on Cingular.

  37. Smd75 says:

    Goddamn! Ive been pissed about their commercials for a couple months. I switched from ATT to Tmobile because I could not for the life of me get decent cell reception in my dorm room, and would barely keep it around campus in Flagstaff, one of their new advertised cities. I worked for about a month with them trying to find what they or I could do. New Phone, New SIM card, nothing changed significantly, so I left. Then the commercial came out, and now my old phone appears to work, just enough time into my Tmobile contract to not be able to cancel. The service wasnt too good. The lady on the phone told me that the maps they have (online) show I have full reception. I told her the maps are designed to show that, but what my phone shows and how many calls I keep dont reflect that. Too bad Apple and ATT are together on the iPhone, its a nice phone, but im not going back to ATT

  38. Beerad says:

    @spinachdip: Yeah, I used to commute on the B train from Brooklyn, and as soon as the train hit the Manhattan Bridge everyone would whip out their cell phones for the 40 seconds or whatever of talk time. Irritating.

  39. Sasquatch says:

    I’ve also seen billboards saying that it works in Japaridelphia
    (Japan, Paris, Philly). To my knowledge, no US GSM cell phone will work
    on Japan’s network. Who’s wrong, me or AT&T’s marketing department?

  40. Truthie says:

    Blame this one on WMATA (the agency that runs the Metro). Rather than allow both GSM and CDMA infrastructure to be installed to benefit consumers, they have a sweetheart deal with Verizon to provide exclusive cell service (for which Verizon pays significantly). AT&T, TMobile, and Sprint have tried to get non-exclusive access to no avail.

  41. JimiSlew says:

    Moscow isn’t in the Southern Hemisphere…

  42. crankybureaucrat says:

    They should get it to work in AK where they advertise heavily too.

  43. Ariel.Sanders says:

    @Jay Levitt, you could not be more correct!

  44. Ariel.Sanders says:


  45. QuirkyRachel says:

    My parents once signed up for ATT DSL. We got the stuff, set it up, it wouldn’t work. So we called tech support, went back and forth with them over 3 days. Finally a manager called them to say that ATT doesn’t serve our area. Nice.

  46. virginiabelle says:

    @Maude Buttons: Yes. Verizon has a contract with the federal government. Federal employees get discounted Verizon service, and are thus able to do work/be in contact while on mass transit.

  47. sardonicbastard says:

    This has to be one of the most boneheaded advertising campaigns I’ve ever seen… the problem is that on a subconscious level, people will accept it without questioning on a very basic level what AT&T is actually saying. “AT&T works in more places”. … than what? Other carriers? Not having a Cell phone? A can and string? The beauty of the statement is that because it is so purposely vague, it requires no evidence whatsoever to back it up. They leave it up to the consumer to fill in the gap of what the “more” actually is.

    The whole thing is disingenuous at best.

  48. Outtacontext says:

    Yes, Sprint does work quite well in the Metro. It’s roaming but for my plan that is free. I believe the Metro is going to make their tunnels all access at some point.

    Virginiabelle, a federal employee can get a discount on their personal service for Sprint and AT&T too (in fact, most companies offer their employees discounts for personal mobile phone contracts).

  49. webdoyenne says:

    Doesn’t work at my house or in my neighborhood, and I live in the middle of a sizable metro area. Many fruitless phone calls to “customer service” — e.g., “Our technicians say coverage in your area is adequate.” So I refused to talk to them anymore, and started complaining to regulatory/consumer agencies. After almost four months, they let me out of my contract early without a termination fee. I now have Alltel, which does work here.

    “More bars in more places,” my @$$…

  50. bigplaidcouch says:

    My problem with the campaign is that every location is a city except in Asia, where it’s a country:

    China, London, Moscow
    Japan, Paris, Philadelphia

    Be consistent, dammit!

  51. spongebob7754 says:

    I think this problem is universal and has gotten worse since the switch back to ATT. While still Cingular, they put a tower in my town of pop. <600, so I got a phone because they were the only company that worked here. Now, they’re telling me that I can’t add another line to my account because “they don’t provide service in my area”!!!!

  52. aVZWguy says:

    Verizon Wireless works in the Metro ‘cuz it was the only company willing to invest in a network there when WMATA invited carriers into the subway tunnels many years ago. Verizon’s deal is NOT exclusive and others have always been free to negotiate their own. Any cell phone that works in the Metro is working on the VZW network. BTW – DC is still the only city in the US with cell phone service virtually throughout the subway underground.

  53. damitaimee says:

    @neophiliack: i was going to say the same!….except…china isn’t a city…so apparently the title is a mashup of ONE COUNTRY and two major cities, nice.

  54. lapseofjudgement says:

    as an employee of at&t i will admit our service doesnt work everywhere but i will say this in regards to the dc metro. verizon has a monopoly on the metro which has been allowed by the local government . at&t has lobbied for equal rights in the metro but has found this is an upward battle. and though i dont always love my employer i will say this our digital network is superior to verizon’s. and if you spend anytime in dc you will realize evdo2 never works at the speed which it advertises and i know that personally as i have a verizon phone also.

  55. mikull says:

    All depends where you are standing, I suppose. My wife and I live in a borough of NYC, and we dropped Verizon when we couldn’t get service in our area.

    We went back to the store after getting cell phones a couple weeks after purchase, and they told us “oh yeah… there’s no tower near there.” Wow, thanks for telling us after signing a contract. In all fairness, we should have asked around the neighborhood, but we have a verizon landline so…

    Long story short, we called customer service to cancel, they said they would send someone to the area to test- whether they did or not, I don’t know- but they let us drop our contracts penalty free. The clerk at the store actually recommended AT&T (completely off the record I’m guessing) – and we have been connected since… I’m just one guy in one place- but if AT&T covers more of NYC than Verizon- well I think that’s saying something.

  56. Buran says:

    @Maude Buttons: Because apparently other cell phone companies are too stupid to realize that there are customers of theirs who might want to make cell phone calls while going to/from work. Or because T-Mobile is too busy staring at its competitors’ 3G service and drooling and thinking that maybe it ought to get one of them newfangled widgets…

  57. sydia21 says:

    I have a Sprint Treo and my plan comes with free roaming. My phone works fine in the metro because I roam on the Verizon network. I’ve always wondered why At&t phones don’t do the same.

  58. jmac32here says:

    I would have to comment on this one for one simple reason. Subway = Tons of concrete.

    CDMA and GSM 1900mhz (the current standards) cannot penetrate that much concrete. So getting coverage in a subway really depends on if a carrier has 850mhz towers near that subway. (and even then you are not guaranteed coverage…you might only get 1-2 bars.)

    Numbers wise (population coverage) Sprint has the largest network. (Mind you it’s only a 1900mhx network.) at&t Mobility (The New at&t, not to be confused with the old AT&T-which was baught by Cingular Wireless LLC.) comes in second place in coverage, and uses both 1900mhz and 850 mhz.

    T-Mobile comes in 3rd, but only operates 1900mhz. Verizon wireless, due to the recent shutdown of AMPS (from what we can tell, that was about 60% or more of their actual coverage area) comes in last on this ranking. Once again operating 1900mhz and 850mhz. So Verizon getting coverage in that subway simply means they have 850mhz towers near that subway. If at&t Mobility steps up and puts in 850mhz towers near that tunnel, it can work in there as well.

    Considering the northeast is primarily Verizon Landline territory, that would also help explain the decent Verizon Wireless coverage in the DC Area. This would also explain the larger number of VZW 850mhz towers, which do not get heavily used anywhere else in the country. (That was AMPS 850, which is now gone.) However, at&t shows decent coverage in that area as well. Perhaps at&t only has 1900mhz towers in that area. (Possbily because of a lockout from Verizon.) Telcos and wireless service does, to some degree go hand in hand. (Maybe why theres rapidly growing Sprint Coverage in the Qwest states.)

    As for CDMA having more coverage than GSM. That is only as true as Sprint having more coverage than at&t, which has the second largest coverage area nationwide (which means they have the largest GSM network in the US.) Not to mention CDMA’s dying support. Sprint is switching completely to WiMax and iDen, whereas Verizon is now scrambling to begin a replacement plan with LTE (which is the 4th Generation GSM Network.)

    -Drako’s Wireless Review-

  59. jmac32here says:


    As for your statement:
    “Verizon Wireless works in the Metro ‘cuz it was the only company willing to invest in a network there when WMATA invited carriers into the subway tunnels many years ago. Verizon’s deal is NOT exclusive and others have always been free to negotiate their own. Any cell phone that works in the Metro is working on the VZW network. BTW – DC is still the only city in the US with cell phone service virtually throughout the subway underground.”

    You negated yourself when you said that all cellphones in the Metro works only on VZW’s network. Proving that The deal is VZW exclusive.

    “Any cell phone that works in the Metro is working on the VZW network.” = All cell phones in the Metro must work on the VZW network, or they will not work at all.

  60. jmac32here says:


    Sizable metro area = Alltel does not work there. Alltel roams onto the national networks Sprint and Verizon if you are not in Eastern WA, Idaho, Montana. Sizeable metro areas I know of there are Spokane, WA.

    Spokane isn’t really that size able, considering if you really want something and they don’t have it, they send you across the mountains to Seattle.

    We ourselves state on our site, that if a regional provider offers service in your area. Use them because they can give you better coverage than the nationals in your area. The nationals are good at providing decent service among major cities (AKA cities with tons of skyscrapers) and along major freeways. Regional providers offer better service in the smaller areas they cover. (BTW, Alltel is a Regional Provider.)