updated 6/4/2008 4:17:42 PM ET 2008-06-04T20:17:42

T-Mobile USA on Wednesday said it would let subscribers to its "unlimited" calling plan include family members for half price, adding another wrinkle in a cross-carrier scramble to define new pricing models.

Verizon Wireless introduced a plan with unlimited nationwide calling in February for $99.99 per month and was quickly matched by its competitors. T-Mobile's plan, which costs the same, also includes unlimited text, picture and instant messaging. Verizon charges $139.99 for that plan.

T-Mobile is now allowing subscribers to add up to four additional lines to an unlimited plan for $49.99 per month each. Competitors charge full price for additional lines on unlimited plans.

The introduction of unlimited plans initially depressed the stocks of U.S. wireless carriers, but Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. have said that the plans actually increase their sales. More people upgrade to unlimited plans from cheaper plans than downgrade from older, more expensive plans, they have said.

Since few cell-phone subscribers use up all the monthly minutes on their cheaper, limited plans, the unlimited plans are good value only for a few percent of consumers. But the plans have become a major point of comparison and competition for the carriers.

The prices quoted exclude taxes and fees that can add $10 to a monthly bill.

T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest cell phone carrier in the U.S., is a unit of Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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