The battle between AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless is heating up.

Now that AT&T has been shot down in its attempts to get Verizon Wireless to take down its "there's a map for that ads" promoting greater 3G coverage, it's rolling out its own attack ads.

In the first spot, AT&T enlists Luke Wilson to give the carrier the nod over Verizon Wireless in the first of four categories:

  • Nation's fastest 3G network.
  • Talk and surf at the same time.
  • Most popular smartphones.
  • Access to more than 100,000 apps.

Verizon nabs the final category: Name that starts with the letter V.

It's a hokey ad, and it certainly isn't as damaging as the zinger that Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) -- put out a couple of weeks ago.

AT&T's campaign may also backfire if Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) opens up its iPhone availability to Verizon Wireless next year, as many expect. Half of those AT&T category kills are based on the carrier's exclusivity with Apple's iPhone.

However, it's important for AT&T to attack. The Verizon coverage map may be deceptive, given the country's population density, but it's sure to resonate with users. AT&T's refusal to back iPhone tethering and its overloaded networks are weighing heavy on its reputation. It has a lock on the iPhone -- as Verizon Wireless is down to pitching "buy one get one free" Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry deals -- but the ill will is bubbling.

AT&T is right to attack, but sometimes the best offense is a good defense.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has an iPhone loaded with free apps, and maybe four or five that he has paid for. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned here. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.