Cellphone industry heading towards price wars, analysts say

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AT&T Inc., one of the nation’s largest wireless providers, is starting the new year with an assault on rival T-Mobile US Inc., offering to pay T-Mobile customers up to $450 to switch to the AT&T network.

AT&T’s move is viewed by analysts as a preemptive strike against T-Mobile, which is said to be planning a similar announcement at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It signals what could become an industry-wide price war that would ultimately benefit consumers, analysts said.

Every US cellphone company faces a stark problem — virtually everyone who needs a phone already has one, said Ramon Llamas, wireless industry analyst for IDC Corp. in Framingham. That leaves them with only one option to grow: luring customers from rivals.

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