T-Mobile CEO: AT&T 'bribing customers, but they won't be fooled'

The spitfire executive teases a big CES announcement, claiming "the competition is going to be toast."

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John Legere
T-Mobile CEO John Legere kicks back in this Twitter photo. John Legere

T-Mobile is firing back at AT&T with words now, but it could launch a larger broadside at the Consumer Electronics Show next week.

The upstart carrier's ever-colorful CEO, John Legere, responded to AT&T's decision to sweeten the pot for T-Mobile customers to switch service providers, claiming that AT&T was bribing consumers to come back, "but they won't be fooled."

"Nothing has changed -- customers will still feel the same old pain that AT&T is famous for," Legere said in an e-mailed statement.

Legere hinted at something big at CES, where T-Mobile is scheduled to hold a press conference Wednesday. Check back in with CNET for the full live-blog coverage of the event.

"Just wait until CES to hear what pain points we are eliminating next," he said. "The competition is going to be toast!"

That the two carriers are willing to engage each other specifically speaks to the competitive landscape and cutthroat effort to win over customers. In a business where there are fewer subscribers up for grabs, the carriers will have to resort more and more to these kinds of promotions. The bottom line: the chance for potential savings for consumers.

T-Mobile, for instance, was rumored to be offering credits to help pay off early termination fees for other customers looking to switch, and many see AT&T's move as a pre-emptive strike against that.

AT&T, meanwhile, downplayed the move and declined to comment on the notion that the carrier is feeling any heat from its smaller rival. A representative said that this is just one of many promotions that are held in a competitive field. The promotion provides T-Mobile customers a $200 credit to switch lines, and will throw in a promotion card of up to $250 for every smartphone they trade in.

But Nomura analyst Adam Ilkowitz notes that a promotion that specifically targets one customer and essentially gives money away is new to the wireless industry, even if it's done in other consumer businesses.

He noted, however, that it could be effective.

"While there is some fine print, it may prove attractive to customers who are willing to pay a bit more to take what could be perceived as a bigger, better-quality network," he said in a note.

Or, customers can wait to see what T-Mobile has in store for the next chapter of its Uncarrier campaign. With Legere making bold claims, it'll have to be more than offering $200 to switch.