T-Mobile expands ETF breakup program to smaller carriers like U.S. Cellular

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has gotten at least 80,000 customers to post social media messages that they have "broken up" with their wireless carriers since the No. 4 operator unveiled a plan last week to pay for customers' early termination fees if they switch from other Tier 1 carriers to T-Mobile and trade in their devices. T-Mobile is also expanding the program to lure subscribers from smaller carriers that offer contracts.

T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert told Re/code that more than 80,000 "breakup letters" have been posted on various social media sites by customers who have left rivals for T-Mobile since the offer began. He declined to provide a specific numbers on how many customers T-Mobile has signed up through the offer, but said that the number of subscribers joining T-Mobile has jumped since the deal was unveiled.

"This is not just a promotion," Sievert said. "What we are trying to do is bring an end to unfair one-way onerous contracts in this country."

T-Mobile representatives later clarified that the 80,000 figure refers only to the number of social media posts, and does not correlate to how many customers have actually switched. T-Mobile has declined to say how many customers have switched since the promotion began. "As you can see from some of the breakup letters, people do say who they're breaking up with. In fact, customers are making signs, wanting to get their photo taken--they really want to have fun with it," T-Mobile spokeswoman Anne Marshall told Reuters.

T-Mobile initially launched its ETF plan targeting customers from AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint (NYSE:S) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), but now the carrier is extending the offer to customers of U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) and more than a dozen other small carriers that offer long-term contracts. T-Mobile will also expand the number of handsets that customers can trade in and will even take damaged phones, though they may qualify for less credit.

Under the deal, customers who trade in their eligible devices at any participating T-Mobile location and switch to a postpaid Simple Choice Plan can receive an instant credit, based on the value of their phone, of up to $300. They then can purchase any eligible device from T-Mobile. After customers get the final bill from their old carrier (showing their early termination fees), they either mail it to T-Mobile or upload it to www.switch2tmobile.com and T-Mobile then sends an additional payment equal to those fees, up to $350 per line.

T-Mobile's actions are clearly affecting its competition. Sprint struck back with a Twitter post promoting its new "Framily" plans, and said "No annual contracts, ETFs, or gimmicks means you won't need a break-up letter." Sprint's Framily plans are available to new and existing Sprint customers and have a limit of 10 phone numbers per group.

AT&T announced earlier this month that it was going to offer up to $450 in credit to customers who switch from T-Mobile to AT&T and trade in their smartphones. However, AT&T executives have said this is only a temporary offer.

For more:
- see this Re/code article
- see this BGR article
- see this Reuters article

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T-Mobile fuels wireless pricing wars, but will Verizon finally take the bait?
T-Mobile ends ETFs by offering to pay up to $650 to switchers
Sprint kicks off Framily, a group-based calling plan
AT&T to offer up to $450 in credit to T-Mobile customers who switch over

Article updated Jan. 17 at 11:40 a.m. ET to clarify that the 80,000 figure refers only to the number of social media posts, and does not correlate to how many customers have actually switched to T-Mobile.