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Virgin Mobile fires salvo at T-Mobile, offers $100 to switch

The no-contract wireless wars are starting to heat up, with Virgin trying to lure T-Mobile customers over and buy a smartphone before May 31.

Virgin Mobile has its sights set on T-Mobile CEO John Legere and his carrier. Lori Grunin/CNET

Virgin Mobile wants consumers to know that it's a major player in the no-contract wireless game too, and isn't afraid to spend a little money to show it.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin set its sights directly on T-Mobile, offering $100 to T-Mobile customers willing to switch their number over and buy a smartphone before May 31.

Carriers will often provide incentives to switch, but rarely do they target a specific company. T-Mobile has made a lot of noise about its move to abolish contracts and subsidies, and Virgin Mobile, a business built on prepaid service and a unit of Sprint Nextel, wants to remind folks that it's been at it longer.

"You know we've been talking about saving money with prepaid service since 2002," a company representative said in an e-mailed statement.

Virgin and fellow prepaid business Boost Mobile, also a unit of Sprint, are likely feeling the heat with T-Mobile making a lot of noise about its new no-contract options. Sprint counts heavily on its prepaid business to offset the continued declines in its Nextel operations.

T-Mobile, for its part, doesn't feel the need to make any changes.

"We're not worried about it," said Andrew Sherrard, senior vice president of marketing for T-Mobile, in an interview with CNET. "Between the network, plans, and devices, we feel good about what we've got. There's no need to respond."

Sherrard said that T-Mobile was seeing early momentum after moving to eliminate contracts and phone subsidies.

T-Mobile hasn't been shy about ripping its rivals, though it hasn't paid as much attention to Virgin or Boost. The company has largely focused on AT&T, and believes it can spark the number of customers switching from that carrier, which offers a compatible network.

AT&T has largely been dismissive of T-Mobile's attempts, with a representative telling CNET, "Whatever," after the T-Mobile launch event last month.

Updated at 5:46 p.m. PT: to include a response from T-Mobile.