Sprint raises ante with latest LTE offer to small businesses

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is continuing its push to attract small business customers to its modernized networks, with its latest promotion promising deals on devices as well as credit for every wireless line switched from a competitor.

Sprint announced it will offer small businesses up to $150 off the price of any Sprint smartphone plus an LTE mobile broadband device. Specifically, small business customers will get up to $100 off any smartphone, including all top-of-the-line Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones and Samsung devices in Sprint's product portfolio, and up to $50 off Sprint's LTE Tri Mode USB or Sierra 4G LTE Tri-fi hotspot. The USB and hotspot devices can each connect to Sprint's LTE, WiMax and 3G networks.

Through the end of May the operator will also add a credit of up to $100 on eligible customers' invoices for every wireless line that a small business switches to Sprint. The offering directly competes with a T-Mobile USA current promotion that entices enterprise subscribers with up to $200 in credits per line to switch their service over to T-Mobile, part of a wider company effort to strengthen T-Mobile's foothold in the B2B market.

"The big discounts on all smartphones and select LTE mobile broadband devices are part of a Sprint initiative to attract and keep a larger share of the small-business market with better offers and customized service," said the operator. Sprint also noted that its retail stores now feature Sprint Consult Centers, where small businesses can put together a package of products and services and get expert advice customized to their needs.

The new offerings for small businesses arrived on the heels of an earlier Sprint announcement that it will offer shared-data plans to small business users through June 13. The plans cover smartphones, tablets and other data gadgets and were announced just weeks after Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile USA announced shared-data plans for business customers. AT&T's Mobile Share plans have been available to business customers since they first launched last year, with businesses and consumers getting the same pricing.

In addition, Sprint recently disclosed that it is collaborating with Manage Mobility on a comprehensive cloud-based mLearning technology solution for schools. The firms' Wireless Campus Manager is included in Sprint's new Mobile Learning 3G/4G data plans for laptops and tablets used within and outside of schools.

The offering is designed to help schools offering kindergarten through grade 12 to better manage wireless costs; procure, image, track and support mobile devices; support the management of acceptable use policies; and more.

Sprint's revamped focus on business users and its new offering to schools reflect its ongoing efforts to turn around operations. During 2012's fourth quarter, the operator posted a net loss of 337,000 subscribers. The operator added subscribers to both its CDMA and LTE networks but overall results were weighed down by Nextel iDEN subscriber losses that numbered 1.02 million customers. Those customers were primarily business users.

Sprint expects to shutter the aging iDEN network by mid 2013 as part of its Network Vision modernization project, through which it is improving its CDMA network and rolling out LTE.

Meanwhile, rival operator AT&T this week released results from its annual poll of 1,000 small businesses nationwide in which it found that 98 percent of them use some form of wireless technologies in their operations. Over the past year, 4G smartphone use by small business employees leaped by 70 percent, and 56 percent of those employees are now using 4G smartphones for business. AT&T traditionally includes HSPA as well as LTE in its definition of "4G."

The operator said 85 percent of small businesses polled said they use smartphones for their operations, more than double the usage five years ago.

In addition, nearly 70 percent of small businesses surveyed indicated they use tablet computers. Larger businesses were most likely to employ tablets, with 90 percent of businesses having 51-99 employees using the devices.

Among small businesses using mobile apps, GPS navigation and mapping are by far the most popular, with 74 percent of business owners using them, followed by location-based services; document management, social media marketing and mobile payments in the field.

AT&T also this week unveiled pdvConnect, a set of cloud-based mobile apps for use on most AT&T mobile devices, which lets users document events in near real-time by speaking, taking photos and sharing location information at the point of service. In an example described by AT&T, a field technician using pdvConnect's field documentation feature could change orders, requests parts or update his status to the office by simply speaking and taking photos of the completed work with a time and location stamp.

For more:
- see this Sprint release
- see this AT&T release and this release

Related articles:
Sprint, in response to Verizon and T-Mobile, launches shared data for business customers
T-Mobile pushing B2B shared-data plans
Sprint loses 337,000 net subs, lowers LTE coverage goal to 200M by year-end
T-Mobile offers businesses up to $200 in credit to switch over
Verizon brings shared data to business accounts