T-Mobile vs AT&T: The battle heats up

A leaked image just hours before T-Mobile's presentation at International CES may confirm T-Mobile's plan to grab customers from rival AT&T.

AT&T (left) and T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom (right), have traded blows over the past year. A leaked ad from T-Mobile shows a plan for the carrier to pay for the early termination fees of customers switching to T-Mobile.

T-Mobile and AT&T have sparred for months leading up to International CES. Now that the conference has arrived, the punches are starting to land.

A leaked ad from DroidLife early on Wednesday showed that T-Mobile will roll out a plan to pay the early-termination fees of new customers when they switch from another carrier to T-Mobile. At T-Mobile's event at CES on Wednesday afternoon, CEO John Legere confirmed this is the case.

T-Mobile will pay up to $350 in early termination fees, and give up to $300 in new device credit, in total offering up to $650 per switched line.

Here's how it works: after a person switches their line, trades in their old phone, and purchases a new T-Mobile phone, they can send the early termination bill to T-Mobile and the carrier will take care of $350 of the fees.

The leaked ad is bright pink (a signature T-Mobile color) with white and black text that reads: “We’ll pay your family’s termination fees when you trade in your devices. Switch today.” In smaller print at the bottom, the ad clarifies that a customer must purchase all new T-Mobile devices, but it can be done for up to five lines. 

Early termination fees can add up to hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars (depending on how many accounts and devices you have), and are seen as a major deterrent for switching carriers.

Though it has long been rumored that T-Mobile was planning to announce this at CES, the ante was upped last week when AT&T announced it would offer T-Mobile customers up to $450 in credit for each line switched to AT&T.

But it appears the old saying “it’s not personal, it’s business” doesn’t apply between the two companies.

Legere has made no secret about his contempt for AT&T, frequently tweeting about the rival carrier’s moves. When the AT&T plan came out last week, he called the move "desperate." He also recently tweeted a photo of his “2014 New Years Resolutions” which included "Give AT&T a break...or not?"

Mr. Legere was escorted out of AT&T’s party on Monday after a photo of him at the party wearing a pink T-Mobile shirt surfaced on Twitter. He claims he just wanted to see musician Macklemore perform. In reference to the incident, he played a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song as he walked up to the stage at the event on Wednesday.

Party fouls aside, the unconventional headlines are nothing new to Legere or T-Mobile. The carrier has spent the past year flipping mobile norms upside-down by breaking away from the standard two-year contract and lifting roaming charges for those traveling abroad.

So far, AT&T has seemed the most reactive to these changes, also loosening plan restrictions and offering faster upgrades. However Legere seems convinced T-Mobile’s CES announcement will post a challenge to more than just one other carrier. On January 4, he tweeted, “#CES2014 – where we really take the gloves off. It won’t just be @ATT that feels us coming!”

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