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T-Mobile scores with 'break-up' ploy

Signage for a T-Mobile store is pictured in downtown Los Angeles, California August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Signage for a T-Mobile store is pictured in downtown Los Angeles, California August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - T-Mobile US Inc's latest ploy to win customers over may already be paying dividends.

The No. 4 telecoms operator that bills itself as the "Uncarrier" launched a website on Thursday where rivals' customers can pen breakup letters to their carriers. More than 80,000 of these "Dear John" missives have since been created, a spokeswoman said.

T-Mobile stressed that not all of those writers may have taken the actual step of moving over to their service.

"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," spokeswoman Anne Marshall said.

T-Mobile's flashy chief executive, John Legere - and his verbal and business assaults on rivals like AT&T - have drummed up publicity in an industry known more for discussions of complicated network technology.

But it remains to be seen if the upstart carrier can vie with much larger and deep-pocketed rivals like Verizon over the longer term.

The company has resorted to increasingly aggressive competitive tactics and marketing stunts to try and win customers over.

In the past month, it has offered to pay up to $350 in termination fees per line for users to switch carriers. That program proved so successful that T-Mobile said it has expanded the offer to customers of any U.S. carrier that levies such a duty, from just AT&T, Sprint and Verizon previously.

It has also got plenty of mileage out of AT&T's tossing out Legere after he crashed his rival's private party featuring rap star Macklemore, at the recent Consumer and Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Legere and his executives have been repeatedly using that incident to take digs at AT&T. And on Thursday T-Mobile announced it would sponsor its own Macklemore concert (Legere is an avowed fan).

T-Mobile, which is 67 percent owned by Deutsche Telekom, managed to turn the corner in 2013 after four years of steadily losing customers, through a combination of marketing savvy and well-publicized wireless plans.

It added 1.645 million net customers in the fourth quarter, up from 1.023 million three months earlier, marking its third quarter of customer growth for 2013.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew and Edwin Chan; Editing by Richard Chang)

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