T-Mobile's 'Get Out of Jail Free Card:' they'll pay your early termination fee to switch

T-Mobile's brash, outspoken CEO John Legere took the stage at CES today to unveil the latest phase of the company's successful "Uncarrier" program: what the company has billed as a "Get Out of Jail Free Card." T-Mobile will pay you as much as $650 per line to cover your early termination fees (ETFs), if you break contract and switch service from AT&T, Sprint or Verizon.

"Customers tell me, 'I wish I could switch but I'm handcuffed,'" said Legere. He called such fees "anti-consumer" and said they're another form of subsidy for the wireless industry.

Beginning Thursday, T-Mobile will give up to $300 in instant credit if you switch to their service and get one of T-Mobile's postpaid "Simple Choice Plans." What's more, once you get your final bill from your carrier, mail it to T-Mobile and upload it to their web site. T-Mobile says they'll give you an additional payment equal to those fees, up to $350 per line. There's a hitch: you have to trade in your old phone and purchase a new T-Mobile phone and port your phone number too.

The deal is good for up to five lines that are part of a family plan. "That's a multi-day trip to Disneyland," said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile's chief marketing officer.

Additionally, T-Mobile now claims it's the fastest LTE network in the country, surpassing AT&T, which also makes that claim. The company bases its claim off of the aggregated results of Speedtest test results carried out by T-Mobile customers, comparing their results to the results of Sprint, Verizon and AT&T customers. Speedtest is a popular benchmarking web site that enables you to measure the upload and download speeds of your Internet connection.

Of course, T-Mobile LTE coverage varies widely. And sadly, for some customers, 4G LTE speeds are still a pipe dream - though T-Mobile now says its LTE network covers 270 million people nationwide. To check T-Mobile coverage in your area, visit their coverage map page.

Shoddy coverage stands to change, according to Neville Ray, T-Mobile chief technology officer, thanks to a recent arrangement with T-Mobile rival Verizon. Ray said that the 700 MHz spectrum deal that T-Mobile announced with Verizon earlier this week will improve the company's network footprint, giving it additional bandwidth and better coverage inside buildings and in rural areas where coverage is sparse.

"I can't tell you we're going to do it overnight," said Ray, but T-Mobile plans to make huge strides building out its network with that spectrum in 2014 and 2015.

Are you tempted to switch to T-Mobile if you're not going to have to pay an ETF with your current carrier? Is Ray's promise of improved network coverage inside buildings and rural areas reassuring? Sound off in the comments - I want to hear what you think.

Check out our play-by-coverage of the T-Mobile press conference, and make sure to visit our #CESlive Superpage for all the news from CES.

Peter Cohen