Sprint has launched a promotion offering five lines of “unlimited” service for $90 a month, undercutting T-Mobile’s unlimited plan by a full 50%. But the promotional price only lasts for the first year.
Customers who activate a phone on the carrier’s unlimited talk, text and data plan can get the first line at $50 a month when they pay automatically. A second line is available for $40 more, and users can add up to three more lines for no charge.
T-Mobile’s unlimited plans start at $70 a month for a first line, $50 for a second line and up to eight more lines are available for $20 each. So five lines of unlimited T-Mobile service costs $180, although that price includes taxes and fees.
AT&T offers five lines of unlimited for $220 a month—but only for DirecTV subscribers—and Verizon doesn’t offer unlimited data in any form, remaining the lone holdout among major U.S. operators.
“Sprint understands the value of unlimited data to our customers,” Sprint Chief Marketing Officer Roger Solé said in a press release. “With our new offer, you can sign up for a plan that allows you to surf and stream all you want and not worry about overage fees and charges.”
Sprint and T-Mobile both introduced so-called “unlimited” plans in August, although both plans come with noteworthy restrictions. Both plans limit video delivery to 480p, for instance, and Sprint limits music to 500 Kbps and gaming to 2 Mbps. Sprint also “deprioritizes” data during times of network congestion.
Users who take advantage of Sprint’s offer will pay the reduced rates through March 2018. After that, pricing will revert back to Sprint’s established rates: A first line for $60 a month, a second for $40, and up to three more lines for $30 each per month.
The promotion not only underscores the growing trend of unlimited data among U.S. carriers—all of them except Verizon, at least—it also highlights the fact that operators are increasingly focused on multi-line plans in a market where growth has plateaued. Multiple-line accounts generally have lower churn than those with single lines, and while they obviously don’t generate as much ARPU, their monthly bills are generally significantly higher.
“That free fourth person is becoming the anchor to keep an account at the carrier,” Roger Entner of Recon Analytics told FierceWireless last month. “T-Mobile has been particularly aggressive when it comes to chasing and catching up to AT&T and Verizon when it comes to family plan customer numbers as they are leading in that segment. At the same time, the focus on four line accounts is a bit misguided as the average household size in the U.S. is still 2.7, which would make the true hot spot target the three-line family. None of the carriers have really recognized this demographic fact.”