Sprint Scraps Unlimited 4G

by Matt Klassen on October 24, 2011

Echoing the same network management that we’ve seen with 3G wireless over the past few years– with tiered pricing replacing unlimited data plans– it looks like the days of unfettered use of Sprint’s 4G network on your tablet, Netbook, USB cards, Mobile Hotspots and notebooks are over.

According to a message on the company’s website, at the end of this current billing cycle Sprint will no longer be offering unlimited 4G mobile broadband on a variety of its devices. To date, Sprint had been offering an attractive package, bundling unlimited 4G access into existing tiered 3G plans, but with an explosion of 4G data traffic, it looks like Sprint simply can’t keep up.

This will surely come as a disappointment to many users, drawn to the fact that Sprint, the first company to successfully roll out a 4G network, was offering such a lucrative unlimited plan. But what about Sprint’s promise to leave its unlimited smartphone data plans alone?  

Subscribers that have signed on to one of Sprint’s three tiered 3G data plans—3GB, 5GVB, and 10GB of monthly usage—will now have to split their data allotment between Sprint’s 3G and 4G networks, meaning that users won’t have to pay more for 4G, but will now see it included in their overall usage amount. Customers who exceed their monthly allotment—something that I would wager is going to happen frequently—will be charged a stiff overage of 5 cents per MB of data.

Beyond that, Sprint is also changing its policy regarding its Mobile Hotspot feature for your smartphone, limiting the service on both its 3G and 4G networks to 5GB of total data per month.

But what about all those flashy commercials boasting about Sprint as the only company left offering a truly unlimited smartphone data plan? Is that now being scrapped? In its announcement the company promised that “if your phone plan contains unlimited data, you will continue to enjoy unlimited data usage on your phone while on the Sprint network.”

Further, in an email to CNET, a Sprint representative explained that, “This change does not apply to phone plans…Sprint continues to be the only national wireless carrier to offer unlimited data use without throttling for smartphones, on both our 3G and 4G networks.”

While that announcement will undoubtedly have current Sprint customers breathing just a little easier, it does raise the question whether or not Sprint will still be offering that lucrative unlimited plan to new customers, a point the company’s opaque news release doesn’t fully explain?

Truly, it was only a matter of time before Sprint’s unlimited 4G plan became untenable, as the voracious data habits of modern Americans simply make it too difficult to turn a profit in a wireless market where margins are razor thin. For its part, the company has assured its subscribers that most won’t even notice a difference, and again it will only be the heavy data users that will suffer; whether such a cliqued statement is actually true still remains to be seen.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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