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AT&T Talks Small Cells, DAS in New Ads

Sarah Thomas
3/17/2014
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Rather than attack its competitors, stretch the meaning of 4G, or rely on a table full of adorably precocious little kids, AT&T is trying a new approach to marketing and actually explaining what it is doing to improve its network.

Sure, the new AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) commercials aren't exactly a technical lesson in network dynamics -- the engineer asks about "nine-beam, multi-beam antenna systems," whatever those are -- but they do delve into specifics like small cells and distributed antenna systems (DAS) in a way we haven't really seen on TV before.

Check out two of the new spots, which debuted on Sunday evening.

Part of the reason AT&T is revamping its ad campaigns could be the threat of litigation from T-Mobile US Inc. , which is taking on Verizon Wireless for its map commercials depicting its inferior magenta map. Or AT&T could just be sick of T-Mobile CEO John Legere making fun of the kids from its "It's not complicated" campaign. (See T-Mobile Repurposes 2G to Get an LTE Edge.)

But Chad Harris, AT&T's executive director of marketing, tells Ad Age it's really because its customers have shown they care to know why the network does or does not work. They are interested in hearing more about AT&T's heterogeneous network strategy, even if they don't ask about it by name.

And AT&T has a story to tell here. As part of Project Velocity IP (VIP), the carrier will deploy more than 10,000 more macro sites, 40,000 small cells, and 1,000 DAS across the country by the end of 2015. It's had a hard time shaking its reputation for poor network quality, back from the original iPhone days, so it's talking up what it's doing to bolster network capacity and reliability to assure its customers that those days are long gone. (See AT&T's Donovan: Perception Still 'Lags' on Network Quality and AT&T Puts Up $14B to Boost Broadband.)

It'll be interesting to see and hear the market reaction to these ads. All the wireless operators have been guilty of misusing and muddling the term 4G to the point that it has lost its meaning with consumers. Now that their networks are increasingly comparable, the operators have to differentiate their marketing in other ways. Attacking one another is one way, but actually explaining what they are doing to be the best is another. We'll see which one wins out. (See 4G: Just a Marketing Term?)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/19/2014 | 12:39:25 PM
Re: technically speaking...
Which speaks to the fact that as networks become more comparable, operators have to find new ways to differentiate -- in their ads and in their offers.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/18/2014 | 6:40:37 PM
Re: technically speaking...
Well, I already have AT&T for my iPad data plan. Verizon for my iPhone. 

I had AT&T on my iPhone previously and switched to Verizon when I kept hearing how much better Verizon is. Honestly, I don't see much difference. 

 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/18/2014 | 10:17:03 AM
Re: technically speaking...
A whole different debate entirely!
gk998
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gk998,
User Rank: Lightning
3/18/2014 | 10:15:19 AM
Re: technically speaking...
Oh the Ericsson DAS / 'remote radio head'...  Not quite the same thing as a 'Small Cell' ;-)
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/18/2014 | 10:03:58 AM
Re: technically speaking...
haha, Excellent call out! I was thinking that AT&T is working with Ericsson, so the new small cells it'd be deploying in enterprise locations would be of the much sexier Radio Dot variety:

gk998
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gk998,
User Rank: Lightning
3/18/2014 | 9:53:11 AM
Re: technically speaking...
"If you want to get technical, that's not what a small cell looks like"

Really? kinda looks like one to me...

 

http://resources.alcatel-lucent.com/?cid=155781

 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/17/2014 | 6:18:51 PM
Re: technically speaking...
haha, wow, Mitch, I think you had just the reaction to this commercial that AT&T was hoping for! Are you switching your wireless service to it now?
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/17/2014 | 6:02:21 PM
Re: technically speaking...
SarahReedy - "It's next set of ads are going to be focused on fixing the perception of engineers as nerds with bad pick up lines in our society."

Bad pickup line? It seemed to be working for him!

Although his partner seemed to be the one doing the picking up. Literally. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/17/2014 | 6:01:08 PM
Re: technically speaking...
Carol Wilson - "Wow, our California geek is a hopeless romantic - who knew?"

Certainly not my wife. 

<signed> Mitch "Valentine's Day -- I've Heard of It" Wagner
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/17/2014 | 5:05:55 PM
Re: technically speaking...
Yeahhh, I don't disagree. It's pretty cheesy. The intent is good on the educational aspect, but they end up drawing on stereotypes -- even the stoner guy at the concert. 
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