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Sprint Nextel more reliable than Cingular, Shock!

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Cingular has again been forced to defend claims made in a big money advertising campaign about the reliability of its network.

The wireless operator, now rebranding as AT&T, launched the high-profile billboard, TV and print campaign last year. TV ads are still running now in which a series of hilarious binds are caused by calls being cut off (example here). Despite a variety of more prescient coverage problems faced by US cellphone users, the ads make capital from trumpeting that Cingular "drops" the fewest calls.

Not so, according to Houston-based wireless services provider MindWireless, which claims independence from any operator. According to the trade newspaper RH Wireless News, MindWireless found that Cingular dropped more calls than Sprint Nextel between January 1 and June 30 last year.

MindWireless notched up a dropped call every time two calls were placed to the same number consecutively and within two minutes. Managing director David Wise said: "Because we manage over 130,000 wireless lines for our clients, with access to detailed call data, we have a very accurate view into actual calling patterns - and the results surprised us."

The difference was marginal: Sprint shaded the win with 5.4 per cent dropped, against Cingular's 5.7 per cent.

Sean Hughes, Sprint's director of communications, said: "We've known we're leading for some time." He added that the study had generated some excitement inside the firm.

This is hardly surprising, as Sprint has already locked antlers with Cingular over dropped calls. Last April it complained to the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau about its rival's claims. Cingular hit back the following month with a lawsuit.

Cingular reacted tersely today to the new data. Chief spokesman Mark Siegel told The Register: "We stand by our advertised claims and the rigorous research behind them."

He declined to provide further details of the basis of Cingular's claims, but last year, the company told the Boston Globe that a San Francisco firm, Telephia, had supplied the numbers. Telephia got shy and refused to speak to media, saying Cingular shouldn't even have revealed its involvement.

Last month, a Cingular customer in California, Jonathan C. Kaltwasser, filed a class action lawsuit, claiming he had been duped into selecting the network by the campaign. More details here

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