NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
The war for mobile customers is heating up with AT&T making this pitch directly to T-Mobile customers: Switch to us and get $450.
It's not cash. AT&T (T, Fortune 500) is offering T-Mobile (TMUS) refugees a $200 credit per phone line, plus the chance to trade in their smartphones for up to $250.
It's the latest in the battle between AT&T and T-Mobile, the underdog that's been hounding its larger rival on every front.
With its very public "uncarrier" strategy, T-Mobile has set its sights on AT&T as well as Verizon (VZ,Fortune 500). First, T-Mobile eliminated contracts, opting instead for customers to pay lower monthly rates and buy their own phones. Then came the "Jump" program, which allows customers to upgrade phones twice a year. Then T-Mobile killed roaming fees and slashed per-minute and text charges.
AT&T is fighting back by appealing to T-Mobile customers' wallets. AT&T declined to say how long the $450 offer would last, citing competitive reasons. The company wouldn't say how many customers it expects to gain from the pitch -- or how much it would cost.
T-Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But CEO John Legere addressed rumors of the AT&T offer Thursday night on Twitter. "I guess we are making AT&T a bit nervous," he wrote.
T-Mobile is currently the fourth largest wireless company in the U.S. But it has always been viewed as a possible takeover target.
In fact, AT&T and T-Mobile agreed to a $39 billion merger in 2011 but AT&T wound upscrapping the deal once it became clear that regulators would block it. Now there is speculation that Sprint (S, Fortune 500), the nation's third largest carrier, may want to buy T-Mobile.
Shares of T-Mobile fell nearly 4% in early trading Friday. But the stock is up more than 20% in the past month due to the reports of a possible Sprint takeover.