Sprint increases unlimited smartphone data by $10 per month

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) raised the price of its unlimited smartphone data service by $10 per month. The carrier's new "Premium Data" charge will apply to all new postpaid smartphone plans beginning Jan. 30. The price increase is the carrier's first significant change to its postpaid data pricing in years.

Sprint plans to keep its Simply Everything unlimited data plan and its Any Mobile, Anytime calling feature, and existing smartphone customers will not be affected unless they upgrade or activate a new smartphone. Before the change, Sprint charged $69.99 for its Everything Data Plan, which includes 450 voice minutes and unlimited data, and $99.99 for its Simply Everything plan, which includes unlimited voice, texting and data. Now, those plans will increase by $10 per month.

Sprint previously charged an extra $10 per month only for its WiMAX-capable smartphones--the HTC Evo, HTC Evo Shift and Samsung Epic.

Sprint's decision to shake up its data pricing stands in contrast to changes by made AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), which last year scrapped unlimited data pricing for smartphones in favor of two usage tiers: $15 per month for 200 MB and $25 per month for 2 GB. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile USA continue to offer unlimited smartphone data services, though they both recently launched a less-expensive tier plans that charge on a per-MB basis.

Sprint spokeswoman Cristi Allen told FierceWireless that the change is "reflective of where the mobile data market is going. It's just not that customers are buying more smartphones, which they clearly are, but they're using more smartphone features."

Importantly, Allen said Sprint's decision signalled it is not going to take the route AT&T and others have on data pricing. "At this time, we're committed to our unlimited pricing philosophy," she said.

Allen said Sprint's change will allow it to meet customers' needs, maintain simplicity in pricing and allow Sprint to continue to invest in its network to meet subscribers' growing demands for data. Allen noted that smartphone users typically use 10 times more data than feature phone subscribers, and that the $10 charge that is applied to Sprint's 3G/4G phones, which use Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network, was intended as a data charge, not a 4G charge.

For more:
- see this release
- see this commentary by Recon Analytics' Roger Entner

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