Should AT&T Be Advertising The iPhone's 3G Speed Where There Is No 3G Network?

Reader temporaryerror brings up an interesting point. Should AT&T and Apple be advertising the iPhone 3G as “twice as fast” in areas where there is no 3G coverage? He sent in the above advertisement from the local Wichita, KS newspaper. He says that the closest 3G network is 120 miles away in Topeka, and that the advertisement doesn’t disclose this information. Is this ok?

I came across the attached ad in todays sunday paper here in Wichita, KS. The advertisement states that the iphone 3g is “twice as fast” and “on the nations fastest 3g network” It also gives the locations of the 3 ATT corp stores in town. The thing is, ATT has NO 3g coverage anywhere near Wichita, KS. The closest city with 3g is Topeka, KS, about 120 miles away. With the exception of the Kansas City and Topeka, there is no 3g available on the ATT network in KS, just EDGE. The ad has no disclaimer regarding this.

It may not seem like a big deal to some of us that are aware that the 3g coverage of ATT is limited and know to check the coverage first, but there is no guarantee that the good folks at the ATT store will let potential customers in on this, and (again) nowhere on the advertisement does it say that ATT’s 3g coverage is quite limited and not available anywhere near the newspaper’s reader’s area.

It’s interesting that they can customize the ad to list the local AT&T store locations, but not to advise consumers that the new phone will not run faster than the previous version until Wichita gets the 3G network. Very interesting, indeed.

Before you consider upgrading to the new iPhone, be sure to check the 3G coverage in your area. You can do that here.


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  1. henrygates says:

    If we’re going to be picky, it also shouldn’t claim that it’s half the price, since its actually a little more expensive – unless they’ve made signing up with at&t optional?

  2. hypnotik_jello says:

    Meh. “Twice as fast, half the battery life” is more like it. Can’t really justify the speed if the battery doesn’t even last a full day. Rubbish

  3. Nick1693 says:

    That shouldn’t be legal to do.

  4. bonzombiekitty says:

    Considering that the majority of the population in a given region is probably going to be in an area with 3G, I can’t blame them for advertising 3G capability in a given region even if most of the region (area wise) won’t have 3G.

    Plus there’s the additional idea that 3G may eventually come into the area, or that the user will travel to an area that has 3G. They’re going to want to advertise that.

    I see it as an ISP advertising X Mbps. I understand that the speed is only attainable under the best circumstances, even if my street can never reach those perfect circumstances.

  5. colbond says:

    I live in Lawrence, KS and spoke with AT&T prior to the 3G’s launch regarding 3G coverage. I was guaranteed in mid May that Kansas City, Lawrence, Topkea, and Wichita would have 3G coverage by launch day. The map on the AT&T website is pretty accurate; outside the Topeka and KC Metro areas, there is no 3G (even in Lawrence, which is immediately in between the two on Interstate 70).

  6. evslin says:

    It should at least say “subject to availability” on it or something… but yeah, why waste money advertising service in an area where that service doesn’t get offered?

  7. Average_Joe says:

    @bonzombiekitty: Did you look at the map, 3G is very limited. Most people will not be in an area with 3G.

  8. mac-phisto says:

    sure, they can advertise it.

    & users can cancel their contracts w/o ETF using the buyer’s remorse clause.

  9. dragon:ONE says:

    I’m at least an hour away from 3G *and* at a local partner store, not a corporate store.

    So either way I have to drive to where the 3G is for an iPhone.

    … or just stick with my new D905i from Japan and not be able to use data or MMS at all, and be able to make very buggy phone calls and SMSes. At least I’m happy with my phone.

    If it wasn’t so locked down it’d work perfectly… if I wasted money and time trying to get a Japanese contract and used World Wing roaming it’d _probably_ work.

  10. Grive says:

    I don’t know. They’re advertising truthfully, in that their phone is capable of twice the speed. I think there is a certain responsibility on the part of the consumer to know that the word “potentially” is implied.

  11. loganmo says:

    It’s no different to me than Verizon advertising Fios in Washington, DC when there appears no chance that there will be Fios in the District anytime in my liftime…

  12. Dobernala says:

    @loganmo: Yes, it is different. Verizon will not sell charge you for FIOS service but only give you DSL.

    ATT is advertising a 3G phone and 3G service but will not be able to deliver 3G speeds.

  13. mdoublej says:

    I want my baby back ribs, but the nearest Chili’s is 70 miles away.

  14. @Dobernala: Whether or not you have 3G available in your area the iPhone 3G still contains a 3G radio capable of making calls and transferring data at 3G speeds.

  15. ckaught78 says:

    If you look at advertising for 56k dial up sevice, they always noted in in small print that you would get less than that. To me it’s false advertising and they have put themselves in an actionable position.

  16. k6richar says:

    It seems they are advertising the phone not the service. I would hope any at&t store in the area would be required to tell you there is no 3G service there but i doubt it.
    I suppose this is alot like DSL advertising up to speeds then finding you are too far from the CO to get more the 1 mbps

  17. Dobernala says:

    @Canadian Impostor: But you can’t get 3G speeds in the area it was advertised in.

    If the advertisement has a disclaimer warning the reader that 3G service may not be available, then its not an issue to me. However, if it doesn’t, then its false advertising.

  18. Dobernala says:

    @k6richar: Twice as fast indicates a level of service. DSL is always advertised as “up to xxx mbps” as far as I’ve seen it.

  19. robdew2 says:

    take your 2G iphone into the store with the ad and ask for a demonstration.

  20. SBR249 says:


    While a sizeable portion of the population does live in Topeka and Kansas City, it sounds like the ad was run in a local newspaper in Wichita (since the ad was customized with addresses of Wichita AT&T stores). This means that someone in Kansas City or Topeka probably will never see this ad and almost everyone who does will live in Wichita which doesn’t have 3G service. So advertising 3G in a local newspaper where coverage isn’t available is a bit disingenuous.

    Also, the ISP analogy isn’t exactly valid. True, Comcast advertises 6Mbps and I’ll never reach that, however the equipment is in place to deliver that bandwidth and I’m paying for access to that equipment. In this case, the equipment for 3G isn’t even there and those people are still paying for access.

    Finally, saying something will be installed in the future doesn’t make it right to charge for it now. Would you buy a house with a roof that will be installed “sometime in the future” with no concrete date of installation? Would you buy a car that will be deliverd “sometime in the future” without any specific dates? If not, why would you pay for a service that could potentially be available in the future?

    @Canadian Impostor:

    Yes, the iPhone is capable of using 3G and has a 3G chip. But that’s paid for when you bought your hardware, even if it’s subsidized by AT&T. The cost of a 3G chip will not exceed $20 maximum, which AT&T will make up even if they do not charge for 3G service. Saying that you should pay for 3G service where there’s no coverage just because your phone can use 3G is like saying you should pay for internet access where you can get it just because you bought a computer with a modem.

  21. SBR249 says:

    argh….no editting:

    “Saying that you should pay for 3G service where there’s no coverage just because your phone can use 3G is like saying you should pay for internet access where you can’t get it just because you bought a computer with a modem.”

  22. Puck says:

    At least it gives him incentive to move out of that state

  23. mancide says:

    I used to work at a newspaper doing ads, and the way Cingular/AT&T media come is the whole ad is pre-done except the local office addresses. We would add those before it went to press. But yes, there should be a disclaimer on there that this needs a 3G network for those speeds.

  24. genesa says:

    They don’t tell you, at least in my experience. My old phone crapped out in Vegas last year, so I had to buy a new one. While it wasn’t an iphone, it did have 3G capabilities. Even better, they activated the phones and there was an area outage, so we couldn’t make any calls at all for a few hours.

    Anyway, I got back home to find out there’s no 3G coverage in our area. I don’t really care, as I only paid $50 for the phone. If I was going to spend the kind of money it costs for an iphone though, I’d definitely be doing my research, as I don’t live in a small southern city that doesn’t get the “cutting edge” technology right away. I’m still waiting for Google maps to update my street so I can see the development I live in, instead of a forest. We’ve been in the house almost 4 years.

  25. genesa says:

    meant to say I live in a small southern city.

  26. They put an asterisk with a footnote that says “except where not applicable” and problem solved. Advertisers have been doing it for ages.

  27. Towtruck says:

    This is hilarious!

    I too live in Wichita and I run a small business. I have a pretty good relationship with our ATT rep. I asked him on the day of the launch “are you guys selling these…even though we are still waiting on 3G here?” His response: “yep”.

    The phone does have other new/good features so to me its not a total crime. Buyer beware. Ignorance costs you money.

  28. Graciela says:

    It’s not even “half the price” to everyone. This new iPhone ad campaign is rife with bait and switch.

  29. ToddBradley says:

    For years, I got a weekly advertisement from Qwest telling me how much better my life would be if I signed up for Qwest DSL for my high speed internet. But every time I called to take them up on the offer, they said it still wasn’t available in my neighborhood.

    I asked the sales rep one time, “So you know my address because you keep sending me these ads in the mail. And you know that address isn’t able to get DSL. So why do you waste your time and money sending these ads when you know it’s impossible for me to purchase your service?”

    The answer was dissatisfying, as you can imagine.

  30. AgentTuttle says:

    It’s very misleading.

  31. TVGenius says:

    @bonzombiekitty: Try reading it again. It was in the Wichita paper. No 3G in Wichita. I laughed at all the people here who were lining up at the AT&T store to get one, or otherwise were in a hurry to upgrade theirs, seeing as how its over 200 miles to the nearest AT&T 3G here… Verizon has had EV-DO rev A for about a year and a half here though…

  32. @Dobernala: Should AT&T be required to tell you that you can’t use Wifi if you’re not in range of a wifi hotspot?

  33. Coles_Law says:

    @colbond: Wichita’s probably getting 3G before Lawrence, seeing as they’re much bigger population-wise than us. Unfortunately, “Eventually twice as fast. Half the price with strings attached.” doesn’t make for a good ad.

  34. __Ken__ says:

    Problem is, they sign up to advertise for publication A. Publication A has a circulation in area A, B and C. 3G is only in area A and B so Area C gets the advertisement when it’s not for them.

    You can argue if this is right or wrong, but it would be rather difficult for a publication to print location specific advertisments. Can you imagine a newspaper with six different layouts, nightmare.

    The cost of a subscription would double.

  35. ChuckECheese says:

    If the OP moves to Oklahoma City, it will solve all his problems. All of them.

  36. xman31 says:

    Nor only are they advertising truthfully, but AT&T will not make you sign up for the $30/month required data plan if you’re not in a 3G covered area.

  37. temporaryerror says:

    @ChuckECheese: said: “If the OP moves to Oklahoma City, it will solve all his problems. All of them.”

    Yes. Let’s make a major move so I can get ATT 3G service. That sounds like a great idea!

  38. wesrubix says:

    Charlatans! :)

  39. navstar says:

    The AT&T reps in Wichita claim that the area will be 3G by October.

  40. DanC922 says:

    Ah, crap. I ordered my iPhone and started switching to AT&T yesterday here in Wichita, KS. Hopefully navstar is right about 3G coming soon.

  41. shadowsurfr1 says:

    @xman31: I’ve seen otherwise with regards to getting the iPhone’s data plan. Prove me wrong and I’ll sign up this week with AT&T and get an iPhone.

  42. FLConsumer says:

    They’re advertising that the hardware supports 3G, and that’s indeed correct. It’s no different than advertising a computer has a gigabit ethernet port. 99% chance your average home user won’t have anything capable of connecting to that computer at that speed.

    Canadian Imposter’s got it right — should these phone cos advertise that their phones are capable of WiFi when we all know wifi coverage is very spotty and hit-or-miss? Same exact issue as 3G.

  43. ChuckECheese says:

    @temporaryerror: Hon, I’m kidding about the move to OKC. It was meant as a joke–of course moving to OKC never solved anything, unless it had to do with BBQ.

  44. mikells43 says:

    verizon wireless has had a solid 3g network since 2005. where has att been. there just trying to sell teeny boppers more iphones lol. att blows!

  45. JustThatGuy3 says:


    Pure boneheadedness on their part – apart from your annoyance, it costs them money to mail the flyers and pay the CSR who takes your call when you ask for service.