Mobile carriers get creative with plans to woo customers


When it comes to wireless service, the times they are a changin'. The rise of no-contract and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MNVOs) like Text Now, FreedomPop, and Republic Wireless are putting pressure on traditional mobile companies to offer better service plans and to become more agile at satisfying customers. And we're starting to see the effects.

T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T have all introduced plans in recent weeks that could save you a lot of money. Perhaps the best of the bunch is from T-Mobile: The company is prepared to offer you $650 to switch from your existing service provider.

Here's how it works: As part of an initiative the company is calling its "Un-carrier" plan, T-Mobile will give you $350 to cover the cost of your early termination fee, as long as you buy a new T-Mobile plan, a new T-Mobile phone, and port your existing number to T-Mobile. But you also get $300 for turning in your old phone, for a total of $650.

This offer might well be a direct response to AT&T's similar, but less compelling plan. Unlike T-Mobile, which offers $650 to customers at any carrier, AT&T is specifically targeting T-Mobile. If you're a T-Mobile customer, you can switch to AT&T for up to $450. AT&T offsets your early termination fee with $200, and gives you another $250 to surrender your old T-Mobile phone (since you do need to get a new handset).

And Sprint has something to offer as well, though it's not a carrier switch deal. Instead, Sprint has rolled out a "Framily Plan" (which I feel compelled to point out is not a typo). An unfortunate mashup of friends and family, the Framily plan gives you a deep discount if you network a number of people into the same group. The plan starts at $55 per month per person, but for every "framily" member who joins, the bill drops by $5 per person per line. It bottoms out at a very attractive $25/month with seven people -- though as many as 10 people can join your network to take part in the savings. Everyone gets unlimited talk and text and 1GB of data.