Sprint to keep smartphone data unlimited on LTE, for the same price as 3G

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) confirmed that it will launch its first LTE smartphone, the LG Viper, later this month for $100 with a two-year contract and $50 mail-in rebate card. The carrier also confirmed that its LTE smartphones will have access to unlimited data plans.

Click here for more details on the LG Viper.

Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat told FierceWireless that Sprint's "4G LTE smartphone customers can enjoy the same unlimited data plans which provide customers with unmatched value and simplicity that allows them to utilize their phones to the fullest without worrying about incurring additional data charges." He said LTE smartphone customers will be able to sign up for the same $79.99 Everything Data unlimited plan that current CDMA EV-DO smartphone customers have access to.

Sloat also said that "data plans for non-smartphone devices are the same regardless of data network," meaning that customers using Sprint's future LTE tablets, hotspots and USB modems will be charged the same prices for LTE data that they currently are charged for 3G data.

The unlimited LTE pricing was first confirmed by the blog Tech Hog on Tuesday.

The carrier did not provide a specific date of availability for the Viper, but Sprint said customers will be able to pre-order the Viper April 12.

A Sprint spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the Viper's launch meant Sprint will begin offering LTE service in April. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in January that the carrier will launch LTE service in 10 cities by mid-year, and so far Sprint has named six of its first LTE markets: Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio. Sprint is deploying LTE through its multi-year Network Vision project, which will cost between $4 billion and $5 billion.

The Viper runs version 2.3, or Gingerbread of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, and sports a 4-inch WVGA touchscreen display, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 5-megapixel rear camera and VGA front-facing camera and Near Field Communications technology for mobile payments services such as Google Wallet (support for which is also included). The Viper is also ULE Platinum Certified, meaning it has the highest level of environmental performance recognized by sustainable requirements established by ULE and Sprint. The eco-friendly device's casing is constructed from 50 percent recycled plastics and the device has eliminated the use of many environmentally sensitive materials, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), brominated flame retardants (BFR), halogen, beryllium, phthalates and nickel.

Sprint has also indicated it will launch the LTE-enabled Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and according to a report from The Verge, that device will debut April 22. The report, which cited an internal Walmart document, also said the Viper will be available April 15. The carrier also intends to launch a LTE mobile hotspot from Sierra Wireless that can also access Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network. Sprint has confirmed that around 15 LTE devices, including handsets, tablets and data cards, are on track to be launched in 2012.

Sprint announced last year that it will launch LTE Release 9 by mid-year using the G-Block of its 1900 MHz spectrum, where it has a 5x5 MHz block of spectrum. "We are wrapping up final field integration tests,"  Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint, said last week. "The technology works and delivers more benefits than we expected."

For more:
- see this release

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Article updated April 4 to include more information about Sprint's LTE pricing.