T-Mobile tweaks smartphone data offering as Sprint's CEO hints of a possible end to unlimited data pricing

T-Mobile USA has again adjusted its pricing for unlimited smartphone service in a bid to target Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), whose CEO, Dan Hesse, hinted this week that unlimited data for smartphones might not last for the company.

T-Mobile is offering new, cheaper postpaid plans with greater flexibility for customers to bring their existing devices to the carrier or purchase a device in monthly installments.

The new Value plan pricing for individual lines breaks down as follows:

  • Unlimited Plus: $59.99 for unlimited voice, texting and 2 GB of data ($20 cheaper than T-Mobile's current comparable offering)
  • Unlimited Premium: $74.99 for unlimited voice, texting and 5 GB of data ($15 cheaper than T-Mobile's current comparable offering)
  • Unlimited Ultra: $104.99 for unlimited voice, texting and 10 GB of data ($15 cheaper than T-Mobile's current comparable offering)

Like T-Mobile's previous smartphone data plans, if users go over their data allotment they will be throttled down to 2G EDGE data speeds for the remainder of their billing cycle. The new plans require a two-year contract and will be available starting July 24 for new and existing customers.

Customers can either bring their existing phone to the service or purchase a new phone and pay for it in monthly installments rather than a subsidy. For instance, T-Mobile said its myTouch 4G Slide will be available for a down payment of $249.99, with 20 additional monthly payments of $15, for a total device cost of $550.

The new plans seem aimed at cutting into Sprint's hold on inexpensive smartphone data plans, which remain unlimited with no overage fees or throttling. Sprint's Everything Data Plan for smartphones includes unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, 450 anytime voice minutes, and unlimited texting and data for $79.99 per month. The new T-Mobile plans also come weeks after Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) introduced usage-based smartphone data plans for new customers.

T-Mobile said it will keep its existing Even More smartphone data plans, but will rename them Classic plans, and will continue to offer prepaid mobile broadband and voice plans.

Meanwhile, Hesse said Sprint will not follow its prepaid brand Virgin Mobile in throttling the data speeds of smartphone customers. But he also said Sprint's unlimited pricing could very well end. Hesse said Sprint's ability to offer unlimited service depends on how much capacity the company has.

"Every few months we take a look, we take a look at tonnage, and we take a look at all the things we're doing to offload tonnage ... We'll just continue to monitor it," he said, according to PC Magazine. "Nothing is forever ... [but] we think it's a terrific opportunity to differentiate ourselves in the market."

For more:
- see this release
- see this Phone Scoop article
- see this FierceWireless article
- see this PC Magazine article
- see this CNET article
- see this Engadget post

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