Ad leak hints T-Mobile will pay full family's early termination fees

The US carrier has been making noise about getting whole families to dump subscriptions from rivals. An ad, apparently published prematurely, offers details about one offer.

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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Droid Life spotted this T-Mobile ad suggesting the US carrier will pay early termination fees that otherwise would discourage customers from breaking their contracts to sign up with T-Mobile. Droid Life

T-Mobile, trying to snatch customers away from other US carriers, appears likely to announce an offer Wednesday to pay a whole family's early termination fees they'd otherwise have to pay themselves to cancel mobile phone contracts.

Droid Life spotted a T-Mobile ad on tech sites that promises: "We'll pay your family's termination fees when you trade in your devices." Such a move would counter AT&T's new offer to pay up to $450 to attract T-Mobile customers.

As part of its "UnCarrier" effort, T-Mobile already promised to "unshackle the family from those other guys" in 2014.

Expect details during T-Mobile CEO John Legere's keynote at CES later Wednesday. Legere has been provoking rivals of late, for example, crashing AT&T's party at CES and saying T-Mobile's competitors are "toast."

That's a big difference compared to a few months ago when AT&T had agreed to acquire T-Mobile USA from its German parent company, Deutsche Telekom. That deal fell apart when antitrust regulators objected. Now there is a possibility that Sprint owner Softbank could be interested in buying T-Mobile.

T-Mobile declined to comment beyond a suggestion to watch the T-Mobile event at CES.

Early termination fees, which customers have to pay if they exit subscriptions before their two-year term finishes, have historically been a way that carriers can reduce customer churn. If carriers start offering to pay those fees widely, though, it means customers are better able to shop for the best plan of the moment, not just the best plan that happens to be around when their subscriptions end.

There are still other barriers to being able to easily change network operators, though. Phones, even if unlocked, often don't work on rivals' networks because they use different wireless frequencies. Note that T-Mobile's apparent ad requires people "device purchase with port-in from AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint" -- in other words, a handset trade-in. That's a lot of hassle, though not so bad if you happen to be ready to upgrade.

T-Mobile has been offering customer-friendly services of late, but its network is often rated as weaker than rivals, most recently in its slower transition to fast 4G LTE networks. It's working to shore up that weakness, though, for example by buying a lot of spectrum from Verizon Wireless.

Sprint, too, has been angling for family business. On Tuesday, the company announced the Sprint Family Plan, under which per-subscriber charges decrease as more phone numbers are added to an account.

Updated at 9:32 a.m. PT with T-Mobile's response.

Via The Verge