PhotoOn the heels of AT&T's announcement that it is doing away with overage charges on its data plan, T-Mobile upped the ante Thursday, announcing it is doing away with data plans altogether.

It says its new Un-carrier 12 will offer customers unlimited talk, text, and data for one price. Company CEO John Legere announced the move in a video blog.

“The era of the data plan is over,” said Legere. “After Un-carrier 12, the wireless industry will never be the same again.”

Who's idea was it?

But shortly afterward, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure took to Twitter to accuse T-Mobile of stealing the idea. It turns out Sprint was preparing to launch essentially the same promotion on Friday, but went ahead and released it Thursday.

“@tmobile & @JohnLegere, so nice of you to follow us after our successful #unlimited marketing trials,” Claure Tweeted from his personal account.

But reportedly, the language was much harsher. CNBC reported that Claure referred to Legere as “a con man” in a previous Tweet, that appears to have now been deleted.

High stakes

The bruising rhetoric may reflect what is at stake. With the U.S. cell phone market saturated at this point, carriers must now grow by taking one another's customers. By offering packages that put no limits on data, smaller players like T-Mobile and Sprint may see the opportunity to feast on larger rivals like Verizon and AT&T.

T-Mobile's Un-carrier 12 is built around the T-Mobile ONE plan. It offers unlimited talk, text, and high-speed data. Under the plan, four lines cost an average of $40 per line and additional lines can be added for $20 a month with auto pay. It's $5 more a month per line without auto pay.

In announcing T-Mobile's plan, Legere saved his barbs for his larger rivals.

“Only T-Mobile’s network can handle something as huge as destroying data limits,” he said. “Dumb and Dumber can’t do this. They’ve been running away from unlimited data for years now, because they built their networks for phone calls, not for how people use smartphones today. I hope AT&T and Verizon try to follow us. In fact, I challenge them to try.”

Sprint Unlimited Freedom

Sprint's expedited press release gives its pricing nearly identical to T-Mobile's. The argument is over who came up with it first.

Under Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan, a family of four can get four lines for $60 for the first line, $40 for the second and $30 each for the third and fourth lines. Sprint said it is also introducing a plan called Unlimited Unhook'd. Customers will get:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and optimized streaming videos, gaming, and music
  • Unlimited nationwide 4G LTE data for most everything else
  • $50 a month for one line
  • $30 a month for a second line up to five total lines

“Wireless customers want simple, worry-free and affordable wireless plans on a reliable network,” Claure said. "There can be a lot of frustration and confusion around wireless offers, with too much focus on gigabytes and extra charges.”

Disruptive forces have rocked the cellular industry over the last couple of years, as restrictive two-year contracts are now largely a thing of the past. The battle now, apparently, is to see who can take it to the next level and be the biggest disrupter.

Regardless of who it is, consumers are likely to be the winners.

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