AT&T wants T-Mobile customers to switch. And it’s offering them hundreds to do it.

January 3

(Rick Wilking / Reuters)

AT&T is dangling a tempting deal in front of consumers in what looks like a preemptive strike against upstart rival T-Mobile.

The company has announced that it's giving current T-Mobile subscribers a credit of up to $450 per line for switching to AT&T and trading in their old smartphone — a $250 base credit, plus $200 per line. That's $100 more than T-Mobile is reportedly going to offer switchers to its own network.

AT&T's announcement also beats T-Mobile on timing. Although rumors about T-Mobile's potential switch plan leaked as early as Dec. 20, the nation's fourth-largest carrier hasn't publicly confirmed the plan. Experts expect it to be unveiled next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

This gives AT&T a few days' head start on outmaneuvering the company it so recently sought to buy. The renewed competition ultimately serves the rest of us. T-Mobile floated a new idea — paying for your early termination fees — and AT&T responded. This is how business is supposed to work. A spokesperson for T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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