Trending: Convoy raises $62M from Bill Gates and other luminaries to transform trucking industry with technology

T-Mobile CEO John Legere. (T-Mobile Photo)
T-Mobile CEO John Legere. (T-Mobile Photo)

AT&T plans to offer a credit to T-Mobile customers who switch to AT&T — jabbing at its smaller rival and attempting to get out ahead of T-Mobile’s rumored plans to do the same thing to AT&T and other wireless carriers at a news conference scheduled for next week in Las Vegas.

[Update, Friday morning: AT&T confirms $200 ‘switcher credit’ for T-Mobile customers]

GeekWire learned this information from a knowledgeable source today. We’ve contacted both companies for comment. The credit from AT&T is expected to be as much as $200, and from what we’re hearing, it’s not expected to be offered to Sprint or Verizon customers. The credit would be in addition to up to $250 of the trade-in value of the switcher’s old device, under AT&T’s existing trade-in program.

The move by AT&T would appear to be a pre-emptive strike. The independent TmoNews site, citing two separate tips, reported Dec. 20 that T-Mobile may offer a rebate valued at up to $350 to customers who switch from competing carriers, to cover the cost of their early termination fees. Part of the rebate would come from the trade-in value of their devices.

AT&T’s plan is the latest sign of the escalating rivalry between the companies, which at one point were on a path to merge their operations, before U.S. regulators nixed AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. Among other things, AT&T’s move would illustrate just how much of a thorn in its side T-Mobile has become under the leadership of CEO John Legere, who frequently jabs at the larger rival, as in this tweet and picture.

 

Bellevue-based T-Mobile last year moved away from traditional phone subsidies for consumers and unbundled the cost of the phone from the wireless plan — lowering the cost of the wireless service and reducing the overall bill after the phone is paid in full. Among other initiatives, the company introduced a $10/month subscription program called JUMP that lets customers upgrade to new phones more frequently without penalty.

T-Mobile has been steadily adding customers with what it describes as its “UnCarrier” approach. In many cases, T-Mobile’s moves have forced AT&T and other carriers to follow suit, and in this situation AT&T appears to be attempting to get out ahead of things.

If AT&T can successfully do that with the rebate plan, this situation would also show the risk of Legere’s outspoken approach. For a few weeks now, he has been teasing the company’s expected “UnCarrier 4.0” announcement, set for next week at CES, making it clear that something big is afoot — and giving AT&T a chance to do something first.

Stay tuned, we’ll post more as the official details emerge.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline

Comments

Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.