Purpose – This study proposes a dedication-constraint-temptation (DCT) model to study the factors influencing customers’ loyalty to mobile data service (MDS) providers. The DCT model explicitly explores the important yet overlooked role of alternative attractiveness (the temptation-based mechanism) as a mediator and the boundary condition of their interrelationships (e.g., relationship length). The model also integrates new and established antecedents of customer-based brand equity (C-BBE) (the dedication-based mechanism) and switching barriers (the constraint-based mechanism). Design/methodology/approach – The proposed model is tested using partial least squares-structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) with a sample of 331 MDS users. Findings – The results indicate that C-BBE has an indirect effect on customer loyalty (via alternative attractiveness) in both relationship groups (shorter- vs. longer-term). However, the indirect effect of switching barriers on customer loyalty only exists in longer-established relationships. The results from multi-group analysis (MGA) reveal that the effect of switching barriers on alternative attractiveness significantly differ across groups. In addition, customer value anticipation and procedural switching costs appear to be the most salient antecedents of C-BBE and switching barriers for both groups. Originality/value – This study makes an incremental contribution by incorporating the temptation-based mechanism as a mediator and relationship length as a moderator into the dedication-constraint model. This study also extends the IS and brand management literature by demonstrating the strategic importance of customer value anticipation in the ICT brand equity-building.