Sprint to Kill Unlimited Wireless Data Plans

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Sprint kills unlimited data packagesSprint’s unlimited wireless data plans for mobile devices and hotspots is about to end, bringing the cell service provider closer inline with AT&T and Verizon’s data caps. The new data plans are set to kick in starting in November.

In a statement on the Sprint Web site the company said, “If you have a mobile broadband device such as a tablet, netbook, notebook, USB card, connection card or Mobile Hotspot device, effective beginning with your next bill following notification, your on-network monthly data allowance will no longer include unlimited 4G.”

Mobile Hotspot data will be combined with user’s regular phone data usage, which means Sprint subscribers will face 3GB, 5GB or 10GB data caps, depending on their contract. Don’t expect to see a price cut from the change since Sprint is saying there won’t be any billing changes for subscribers with Mobile Hotspot add-on packages.

For subscribers with unlimited phone data plans, however, Sprint said “You will continue to enjoy unlimited data usage on your phone while on the Sprint network.”

Sprint joined the iPhone family in October as the third Apple partner in the U.S. with the launch of the iPhone 4S. Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S during a special media event at the beginning of October, and began selling the combination iPod and smartphone in stores on October 14.

[Thanks to Engadget for the heads up.]


Kyle Maguire

This is NOT for mobile phones, just devices like Hotspots, and the Hotspot add-on for phones.

Ross Edwards

This is Apple’s doing.

No, I don’t mean because of the iPhone 4s or the carrier expansion or whatever.

I mean that Apple, with the iPhone, starting in 2007, singlehandedly pushed the entire smartphone category into the next era… and the infrastructure and the market weren’t expecting it yet.

Look at the history of wireless technology against costs, pricing, and sales.  The smartphone market was moribund in 2006.  Plenty of BlackBerry deployment was happening in corporate circles, but for the most part people were more than happy on their Nokia 1100 series, Moto RAZRs, and other featurephones with mediocre cameras.  The price of voice minutes was in free-fall, with some companies even rolling over unused minutes to subsequent billing periods.  As a single guy in 2005, I had gotten my personal mobile bill down into the sub-$40 range.  A long fall from the late 1990s when we paid $90/mo for 200 minutes for our StarTacs.

By the end of 2006, plan usage costed next to nothing, and nobody paid for their phone except corporate Palm and BB buyers.  Heck, you could get free flip-phones on a ONE-year contract in some cases.  Nobody cared.

Fast-forward to 2011.  Smartphones sell so fast and in such volume that people are lining up to get them.  An entire sub-profession exists now that did not exist then: mobile app developer.  And the unbroken, unchanged, unerring trend of the cost of monthly mobile service actually REVERSED this year.

If the market wasn’t hot, if people weren’t buying iPhones and Androids by the tens of millions every quarter, do you really think the carriers would have INCREASED the price of service?  They wouldn’t have dared!  They know it would have pushed huge swaths of their customer base out to the scrappy regional carriers… Cricket, MetroPCS, Virgin, etc.  But right now they see, correctly, that this is a market so overheated that they can do whatever they want.  And so they have.

My mobile bill is $180/mo now, but I admit it’s not apples-to-apples.  I have four lines on it, two using iPhones with unlimited data, and a healthy shared-minute tier.  But that cost is largely arbitrary in terms of the cost of delivery of service.  It’s pure profit-taking by ATT, VZ, and Sprint.  (Well, NOW it’s profit-taking by Sprint.  They seem to have been a bit slow on the uptake on that count.)

If the market was as apathetic toward the handsets today as it was five years back, I fully expect my bill would be around half its current size.  They would have had to.  Because if they didn’t, I would take my business to a carrier that DID offer that… as some of the regional carriers are pretty close to doing right now…

...but they don’t have the iPhone, now do they?

This is Apple’s doing… and Steve Jobs continues to exercise a phenomenal reach, even from beyond the grave.


This is Apple?s doing.

...except it’s not, because their smartphone data plans are still unlimited. The only thing that is changing is the mobile hotspot plans, which Apple has nothing to do with.

I think the title is a bit misleading compared to the rest of the article, since Sprint will still be offering unlimited phone data plans. “Kill” would imply that this is not the case…

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