Sprint set to end $15-per-month unlimited data plan

Sprint says its offer ends at 11:59 PM Eastern Time on Friday, June 15. (Sprint)

Sprint is ending its $15-per-month unlimited data offer a week after introducing the discount. The carrier says the promotion will end just before midnight Eastern Time on Friday, June 15.

Sprint's Unlimited Kickstart plan targets customers of other carriers. The carrier said it launched the offer with the goal of winning a certain number of new customers, and that the response has been overwhelming and exciting. Sprint said that it is likely to repeat the tactic of launching short-term offers designed to entice people to give its network a try.

Switchers can bring their phones to Sprint or buy new devices to take advantage of the plan. Unlimited Kickstart does not require a contract, but customers do have to enroll in AutoPay. The offer can only be activated online.

The promotion is positioned as a Father's Day deal, but people who wait until then to take advantage will be out of luck. When the offer was first announced, it was not characterized as a one-week opportunity.

Sprint reportedly said customer demand for its $15-per month plan has been heavy. None of the other nationwide carriers have matched Sprint's current price for unlimited data.

Unlimited data plans were gradually phased out by the carriers as they rolled out LTE and customers started using mobile devices much more frequently. Then in early 2017, T-Mobile re-introduced unlimited data, and the other nationwide carriers followed suit. 

The result has been a sharp increase in mobile network traffic, according to the analysts at iGR Research. The analysts surveyed consumers about ten common uses of mobile devices, and found that all ten uses have increased since 2016. The research excluded use of mobile devices in stationary settings, when people are likely to use Wi-Fi. 

iGR found that in 2016 just 5% of those survey respondents were regularly downloading applications, games and software on mobile networks. Now 45% of respondents are doing this, an increase the analysts attributed to "the increased adoption of unlimited usage rate plans and faster LTE connections."

"Watching streaming video, which of course drives the highest data usage, increased by 364%, from 10% of consumers saying they did this in 2016 to 48% in 2018," the analysts wrote.

Streaming video is a mobile use case that is expected to drive major increases in traffic in the months ahead. During its legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department over its Time Warner acquisition, AT&T told the court it wants to increase mobile video usage dramatically post-merger.

“We want people engaged with their mobile devices all day watching movies and video,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told the court, according to the New York Times.