Sprint doubles data of its shared plans in response to AT&T's similar promotion

Two can play that game, according to Sprint (NYSE: S). For a limited time, the carrier is doubling the data on some of its shared data plans, just days after AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) offered to do the same for its shared plans.

In responding to AT&T's promotion, Sprint is making it clear that it will not be content to let AT&T undercut one of its new lines of marketing--that it offers double the data of similarly priced shared data plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). Both Sprint and AT&T are now offering incredibly large data buckets that most families are unlikely to burn through in a month, but Sprint clearly felt it needed to respond to AT&T's promotion.

Under Sprint's promotion, new and existing Sprint customers will get double the sharable data, for the same price as AT&T, on Sprint's 32 GB, 40 GB and 60 GB Family Share Pack plans.

The new promotional plans give customers 60 GB, 80 GB or 120 GB of data if they sign up by Oct. 31, the same day AT&T's promotion ends. (The 32 GB plan is not being exactly doubled, but the others are.) All of the plans come with unlimited voice and texting.

Sprint said customers on the current Sprint Family Share Pack plans who want to take advantage of the "double the data" promotion can visit their local Sprint store or call customer service to sign up.

Sprint also said that tor customers switching their number to Sprint from another carrier, it is waiving through 2015 the monthly access charge for handsets, tablets and mobile broadband devices on 20-GB-or-higher data allowances for up to 10 lines. The carrier said all devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay or the Sprint's iPhone for Life Plan.

Sprint has said it can offer such large data buckets because of its large reserves of 2.5 GHz spectrum. The company has about 120 to 150 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 markets. However, Sprint's tri-band Spark LTE service, which uses 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum, is still available in only 27 markets nationwide. The company is trying to hold onto customers and attract new ones as it races to get the Spark network built out. Sprint says Spark delivers average downlink speeds of 6-15 Mbps and peak speeds of 50-60 Mbps on capable devices.

Additionally, Sprint is trying to woo business users. Beginning Oct. 3, Sprint Business customers will get double the sharable data on the 40 GB, 60 GB, 80 GB and 100 GB Sprint Business Share plans if they sign up by Oct. 31. Under that promotion, customers would get 80 GB a month for $135 a month, 120 GB for $200, 160 GB for $270 and 200 GB for $330. For a limited time, for any business customer who brings their phone number to Sprint and activates a nonsubsidized device with a Sprint Business Share plan, Sprint will also waive access charges for handsets, tablets and mobile broadband devices on 20-GB-or-higher data allowances through the end of 2015. Customers can also receive up to $350 in credits when they switch and submit their Early Termination Fee letter to Sprint.

Under AT&T's promotion, its current 15 GB plan, which starts at $130 a month, will be doubled to 30 GB, significantly more data than the company's 10 GB/$100 plan. AT&T also offers 20, 30 40 and 50 GB plans that will be doubled to 40, 60, 80 and 100 GB for the same pricing as the smaller data-bucket plans ($150, $225, $300 and $375, respectively). The AT&T plans all come with unlimited voice and texting, and customers are charged $15 a month per smartphone line if they buy their device through AT&T's Next handset-upgrade program.

As several commentators have pointed out, the push to get customers to sign up for ever larger--and more expensive--data buckets is somewhat odd, considering that carriers are throttling the data speeds of customers on legacy unlimited data plans once they reach certain data-usage thresholds or are on congested cell sites. Some have questioned why carriers are throttling the speeds of customers on unlimited plans when they are encouraging families to buy data buckets with several times the data allowances of those plans.

In July, as Ars Technica notes, AT&T changed its throttling policy so that it throttles users only at times when, and in places where, the network is actually congested. However, for customers on legacy unlimited plans, the carrier still throttles users after they have hit 3 GB of usage on HSPA+ devices and 5 GB on LTE devices.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler spoke out against throttling at CTIA's Super Mobility Week show in September. "We are very concerned about the possibility that some customers are being singled out for disparate treatment even though they have paid for the capacity that is being throttled," he said. "And we are equally concerned that customers may have been led to purchase devices relying on the promise of unlimited usage only to discover, after the device purchase, that they are subject to throttling. I am hard pressed to understand how either practice, much less the two together, could be a reasonable way to manage a network."

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