Sprint's Claure: Unlimited prices might go up later this year; network is getting better

Sprint (NYSE: S) might decide to raise the prices on its individual unlimited smartphone data plans later this year, according to CEO Marcelo Claure. For now though, everything is staying as is.

Marcelo Claure

Claure

"There will be a time when it might not be economically viable to offer unlimited," he said yesterday in an interview with Kansas City, Mo.-based TV station KSHB. "But for now, we're OK. For the next few months unlimited continues. We might increase the prices toward the latter part of the year and then we might eliminate it in the future."

Those comments echo ones Claure made in May at Re/code's Code Conference when he said "unlimited is not forever." Sprint currently offers an unlimited plan with unlimited voice, texting and data for $60 per month, $20 cheaper than T-Mobile US' (NYSE:TMUS) unlimited plan. For iPhone 6 and 6 Plus customers, Sprint offers an unlimited plan for $50 per month.

Claure held an event yesterday at Sprint's Overland Park, Kan., headquarters with Sprint employees to celebrate the announcement that, according to network testing firm RootMetrics, Sprint is now tied with Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) for No.1 in overall performance, reliability and call performance in its hometown market of Kansas City, and is the outright No. 1 carrier in text performance. Sprint's median download speed increased by 62 percent in the market since RootMetrics' previous test in October 2014, John Saw, Sprint's chief network officer, wrote in a company blog post. This is the first time since August 2011 that Sprint has had a shared win for overall network performance in Kansas City, Sprint said.

Sprint said that in 111 of 125 markets to be measured in the first half of 2015, RootMetrics awarded it a total of 156 first place (outright or shared) RootScore Awards for overall, reliability, speed, data, call or text network performance, compared with just 21 award wins in the same 111 markets in the first half of 2014.

"You'll see Sprint continue to get better every day in markets across the country as we increase coverage and capacity, densifying the network with the addition of more cell sites across all of our spectrum bands," Saw wrote. "We'll also continue rolling out some of the most advanced technologies in wireless--carrier aggregation for higher speeds, 8T8R radios for enhanced coverage, and multi-antenna processing techniques like MIMO for higher capacity aimed at further unlocking the potential of our network."

Claure pointed to brighter times ahead. "We're trying to become a more efficient company," Claure told KSHB. "We're trying to have a great product. And I think the testament of that is what we announced today."

At the event with employees, Claure said that with Sprint's network improving, sales associates should not be able to hide behind the excuse of a poor network when trying to bring on new customers. Claure, an entrepreneur at heart, encouraged Sprint sales reps to be more aggressive. "I want to make sure that every single one of us becomes a salesperson, because every single one of us knows someone who is not a Sprint customer," he said, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.

Claure is giving employees an incentive to boost Sprint's subscriber figures and held up business card-size advertisements that he wants employees to hand out as much as possible, the report said. For every customer they bring on, the employee and the new customer each get $50.

In November 2014, just a few months after Claure took the helm, the carrier announced 2,000 job cuts as part of an effort to cut costs across the board. Claure said he could not guarantee future job losses but said his goal is to get Sprint growing again.

"Can I make a commitment that there will never be a layoff again? Of course not," he told KSHB, adding: "We're working real hard to get back on growth mode. Companies that are growing don't lay off people." Claure said Sprint is looking to hire hundreds of people and soon will look to hire more than a thousand people. The Sprint chief wants buildings set aside at headquarters for the new hires it plans to bring on.   

For more:
- see this KSHB article
- see this Kansas City Business Journal article
- see this Kansas City Star article
- see this Sprint release
- see this Sprint blog post

Related articles:
Analyst: SoftBank's Son taking more active role in Sprint's network as densification planning nears completion
Sprint gets OK from SoftBank to move ahead on network densification plan
Signals Research: Sprint's 8T8R radios in 2.5 GHz increase throughput, coverage
Sprint's Claure: In 18-24 months, we'll be No. 1 or 2 in network performance
Sprint: 16 of 30 rural LTE roaming partners have now launched LTE service
Sprint's Claure: We've got enough money to attract customers and improve our network

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