Sprint Raises Smartphone Data Fee By $10, Will Other Carriers Follow Suit?

by Gaurav Kheterpal on January 19, 2011

The low-cost unlimited-data honeymoon is coming to an end for Sprint 3G users with the carrier announcing its plans to raise smartphone data prices by $10 per month. The $10 premium-data charge currently applies to all 4G smartphones including HTC EVO 4G, EVO Shift 4G and Samsung Epic 4G smartphones in the Sprint network. So, if the carrier is to be believed, 3G users consume the same amount of data as 4G users!

Sprint defends itself saying that the fee is “essential” to maintain its network while offering unlimited data consumption. The carrier boasts that its unlimited plans still offer the best value compared with its competitors, despite the introduction of “Premium Data Add-On”.

Sprint is one of the few carriers to continue offering unlimited data plans, even as several bigger names including AT&T abandoned ship in favor of tiered pricing last year. Will Sprint’s move help revive the golden era of unlimited plans, albeit for a price? Or would it send a wave of price hikes across the wireless industry? Time will tell.

Sprint’s Premium Data Add-On will be applicable for unlimited data plans for new smart phone customers beginning Jan. 30. Existing Sprint 3G customers won’t be levied the new charge unless they upgrade to a new smartphone. Needless to mention, Sprint’s existing and prospect customers aren’t amused. The carrier faced a similar public backlash when it levied a mandatory $10 data fee for all HTC Evo 4G devices. Sprint says smartphone customers on average use 10 times more data than other mobile phone customers and I couldn’t agree more on that. Mobile internet on feature phones is a pain and I know that as well as anyone else.

I’ve no qualms in admitting that I’m a hardcore unlimited data plan fanboy. Despite the Premium Data Add-On, Sprint’s unlimited plans are still a good deal as compared to some of the tiered pricing plans on offer. It’s worth noting that Sprint’s unlimited plans offers unlimited calling to any mobile phone, thereby offering a decent substantial saving on voice minutes.

Of course, Verizon ($75 per month) now stands to gain a low-cost advantage in the unlimited plans segment as Sprint and T-Mobile are now roughly priced the same ($80 per month). With the Verizon iPhone finally becoming a reality, it’s a matter of time before the carrier decides to either increase its unlimited-data-plan fee or even go down the AT&T path.

Sprint says that it’s committed to retain its unlimited plans instead of adopting a tiered system. Elizabeth Woyke at Forbes believes that Sprint’s recent move is a sign of “heightened confidence at the company”. It’s evident that Sprint has decided to stay away from the tiered pricing crowd, at least for now. Whether this “Unlimited Plan” price rise model is sustainable in the longer term, I’m skeptical yet hopeful. What do you think? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment below this post.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS>, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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