Sprint chides Verizon, AT&T over unlimited data plans

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is using Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) words against it, reminding mobile users that even though Verizon will end its grandfathered unlimited data plans for customers who buy subsidized LTE devices, Sprint still offers unlimited data for all smartphone subscribers.

"Sprint is the only national wireless carrier to offer truly unlimited data with no throttling for smartphones," said a recent post on Sprint's community page. Sprint's post noted that customers can sign up for Sprint's Everything Data 450 plan for $79.99 per monthand in return receive unlimited data, texting and calling to and from any mobile in the United States.

"This Sprint plan offers a savings of $40 per month versus Verizon's comparable plan with unlimited talk, text and 2 GB Web, or $10 per month savings versus Verizon's 450-minute plan with unlimited text and 2GB Web (excludes taxes and surcharges)," said Sprint.

The post went up last week shortly after Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo told investors at a J.P. Morgan conference that the operator will migrate 3G customers who were grandfathered into its $30 per month unlimited data plan to the company's planned data-share plan when those customers upgrade to an LTE device. Verizon later clarified Shammo's statements, stating that customers will no longer be able to keep their grandfathered unlimited plan if they buy a new device at a subsidized price, but customers who purchase a new LTE device for full price can retain their unlimited data plan.  

At the same conference, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) President and CEO Ralph de la Vega confirmed that operator is also putting together a data-share plan.

In its blog post, Sprint chided its larger competitors for their overage charges and data throttling policies, asking, "Why would you want to risk a surprise on your monthly bill from data overage charges like you might get with tiered data plans from AT&T or Verizon? And do you really want to risk limiting your data usage to avoid throttling, like you might with AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile?

Of course, Sprint did not note that its own Virgin Mobile USA prepaid brand is now engaged in data throttling once a user reaches 2.5 GB of data consumption in a month. Sprint's other prepaid brand, Boost Mobile, does not have a speed-reduction policy in place though it reserves the right to throttle in what it considers extreme usage situations.

T-Mobile USA reacted to the comments from Shammo and de la Vega via a blog post from its Senior Vice President of Marketing Andrew Sherrard, who indicated the operator does not plan to dive into the shared-data pool with Verizon and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T). Sherrard said T-Mobile doesn't think that consumers want a "one size fits all" approach to shared family data plans, nor would they benefit from that model.

The shared data plans being envisioned by Verizon and AT&T are being driven in part by the ongoing rollout and customer adoption of their LTE networks. Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile offer commercial LTE service yet.

T-Mobile earlier this month named Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Nokia Siemens Networks as primary infrastructure vendors for its forthcoming LTE network, which it says it will roll out nationwide in 2013. T-Mobile is the last of the nation's Tier 1 carriers to pick vendors for an LTE rollout. 

As for Sprint, in its first-quarter 2012 earnings call company executives said it is still on track to launch LTE service via its Network Vision plan in six metropolitan areas by mid-year--Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City and San Antonio, Texas--and noted some 3,000 Network Vision cell sites are under construction in 17 markets.

However, in a setback for operator, the Evo 4G LTE smartphone that Sprint hopes will help seed its customer base for LTE adoption is one of the HTC devices being held up from importation by U.S. customs officials. The officials want to ensure that HTC's devices comply with an exclusion order issued in December by the U.S. International Trade Commission, which ruled then that HTC had violated an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent.

For more:
- see this NetworkWorld article
- see this Sprint blog post
- see this T-Mobile blog post

Related articles:
T-Mobile isn't jumping on the shared-data plan bandwagon
Verizon will kill 'grandfathered' unlimited data plans, push users to data share
T-Mobile unveils new tiered data plans for smartphones, details throttling speeds
AT&T's de la Vega: We want to minimize phone subsidies
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