Report: Sprint testing shared data plans in select markets

Sprint (NYSE: S) is testing a shared data plan in select cities, according to a CNET report. The trials could indicate that Sprint wants to follow in the footsteps of Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), which have made shared plans cornerstones of their offerings.

The report, citing an unnamed source, said that Sprint will trial the shared data plans in Las Vegas; Portland, Ore.; and San Diego. Sprint is also testing out discounted versions of its Framily and individual plans, the report said.

Sprint has built its reputation, in part, on maintaining unlimited data for smartphone users, but the trials could indicate that Sprint executives no longer think that is enough to win back market share.

According to the report, the Sprint shared data plans offer unlimited voice and texting and customers choose the data bucket they want. Customers would need to pay an additional access charge to add a device to the plan, as is standard on Verizon, AT&T and other carriers' shared data plans. According to the report, Sprint will price its shared data plans below what AT&T and Verizon charge.

According to the report, Sprint is also testing out a cheaper version of its Framily plan in Buffalo, N.Y.; Philadelphia; and Providence, R.I. That plan begins at $45 a month for unlimited voice, texting and 1 GB of data per line, or $10 less than the official Framily plan. Framily plans offer discounts as more people join the Framily circle, and the discounted version drops down to $25 per month when five people join, while the official plan doesn't go down to $25 until seven people join.

Additionally, the report said, in Chicago, Minneapolis and parts of western Michigan, Sprint is allowing customers to get a $50 unlimited plan or $40 plan with unlimited voice, texting and 3 GB of data per month if those customers pay full price for their smartphone, bring their own device, or pay for their phone in monthly installments. Those plans offer large savings over the individual unlimited data option for a Framily plan, which costs $75 per month, excluding the cost for a smartphone.

Sprint did not comment on the specific trials, but acknowledged the carrier conducts trials. "Sprint is always looking for ways to improve the customer experience, and we often conduct targeted market trials before launching a product or service," a Sprint spokeswoman told CNET.

Sprint lost 231,000 postpaid customers and 364,000 prepaid customers in the first quarter. However, Sprint promised to reverse that trend in the second half of this year by posting positive net customer adds in the final six months of 2014 now that it is near completion of its Network Vision network modernization project. Sprint has blamed its elevated churn on its network upgrade project. 

Sprint is being squeezed at both the high end of the market by Verizon and AT&T and at the lower end by T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), though rumors persists that Sprint will propose a merger this summer with T-Mobile.

For more:
- see this CNET article

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