Sprint looking rosey in Verizon's move to usage-based smartphone data pricing

editor's corner

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) takes the plunge today and flips to usage-based data pricing for its smartphone plans.

That means consumers can now choose varied tiered data pricing options from AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon, unlimited offerings from T-Mobile USA that include throttling data traffic as a way to curb excess users or Sprint's unlimited data offering. Who says there isn't differentiation in the market?

But the beneficiary of Verizon's moves, say a lot of folks, will be Sprint. Citadel Securities analyst Shing Yin noted that it's likely Sprint will carry the iPhone this year. With its lower-priced plans, a Sprint iPhone "could offer an attractive proposition for more price-conscious users (a demographic that we think is increasingly important to Apple following the rise of Android)," and "could be a relatively stronger seller than the Verizon iPhone," Yin wrote. "We believe Sprint could capture more than its fair share of iPhone sales, especially if it gets the new model at the same time as AT&T and Verizon."

That would be quite the marketing battle.

On the WiMAX side, it's interesting to see Sprint finally use the capacity advantage the company has been touting so long  because of partner Clearwire's vast spectrum holdings. When Sprint put the WiMAX-enabled Evo View 4G tablet on sale, it came with data services at a higher usage tier than what the company has been offering for 3G tablet data plans. Those who use WiMAX get access to unlimited WiMAX data but are capped on the company's 3G network. Sprint also recently positioned WiMAX as a primary fixed line for enterprises backed by a 99.95 percent availability service-level agreement.  

I won't be surprised to see Sprint come to the enterprise with a combined fixed and mobile package that could be pretty compelling for many enterprises.

And it appears that unlimited data is here to stay for some time. CEO Dan Hesse has said that the company could keep its plans unlimited by charging more if it eventually found that customers were consuming more data than the carrier could handle.--Lynnette