T-Mobile Confirms ETF Plan, Sets Up Wireless War With AT&T, Others

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Rumors don’t always come to fruition, but here’s one that did. T-Mobile announced on Wednesday that it will pay the early-termination fees for customers who want to switch from their competitors to the Magenta Network.

America’s fourth-largest carrier said that with a phone eligible for trade-in, the total value of switching from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint to T-Mobile could be as much as $650 per line. AT&T launched a preemptive strike last week, saying that it would start giving customers up to $450 in credit to leave their current network and sign up with Ma Bell.

Could that be the death knell we hear ringing for postpaid contracts? T-Mobile did away with them for new customers last spring, and now we are being paid to leave our old carrier, early-termination fees be danged.

AT&T and T-Mobile are at the heart of a battle for customers. T-Mo nabbed twice the amount of new customers in the third quarter of 2013 as AT&T did. It will be interesting to see if the Bellevue, Wash.-based company can keep that momentum when fourth-quarter numbers are released in the coming weeks.

T-Mobile says its so-called “get out of jail free card” is the latest move in its “uncarrier” strategy, which began when it eliminated contracts. But that was just one of the company’s announcements at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company also said it has extended its LTE network reach to 209 million people in 273 metro areas, and is now the fastest in the country   a claim that’s disputed by its bigger rivals.

In addition, T-Mobile announced three new gadgets to its mobile-device family, including the LG G Flex smartphone; the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet PC; and the Xperia Z1 smartphone, part of an exclusive partnership with Sony.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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