While this year’s Consumer Electronics Show has yet to produce any big fireworks on the product front, it has held a significant role in adding fuel to the raging fire between AT&T and T-Mobile.
In a battle that started months ago, with mobile carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon trying to one-up each other's best offer, it seems two have developed a particularly sour taste for one another. T-Mobile, the underdog in the tussle, has taken a no-holds-barred approach to building its customer base, from cutting out contracts and data limits to all-out bribery. But being competitive in the market means everyone else has to play that game, too.
And so last week, AT&T announced that it would pay up to $450 for customers to switch from T-Mobile to their service, including up to $250 in turn-in credit for their old phone and $200 per line.
The move no doubt would inspire a counter-offer from T-Mobile—and it did.
During his keynote address at CES on Tuesday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced (after an expletive-filled speech directed at his competitors) that the mobile company would pay any early termination fees that customers from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint incur when transferring to T-Mobile. The keynote spectacle followed Legere's earlier stunt—crashing (and being booted from) the AT&T CES party on Monday.
All of the commotion has taken some of the wind out of AT&T's CES sales, where it made some waves of its own with announcements of a controversial sponsored-data plan, a connected-car platform and AT&T Drive Studio test facility, as well as partnerships with GM and others to add LTE coverage to vehicles, as well as hosting the AT&T Developer Summit and a hackathon.
Back on stage, Legere touted that the carrier added 4.4 million customers in 2013—and it doesn't plan on slowing down that pursuit. He also claimed that research shows T-Mobile has the fastest wireless in the US, a battle that has been previously fought—and lost—by T-Mobile. "If you look at that data, we win by a mile," he said, threatening AT&T with a cease-and-desist letter to change its marketing.
It would be no surprise if Legere were to send that letter, of course. It seems even more likely that he’ll deliver it himself via magenta bat-mobile or perhaps an incredible Red Bull-sponsored fall from space.