Sprint Shifts Strategy to Unlimited Data, Raises Some Prices

  • So-called half-off plans will be discontinued starting Friday
  • Price cut on popular 2-line plan, raises rates for extra lines

Sprint Corp., the frequent culprit in price wars that have roiled the mobile-phone industry, waved the white flag and said it will increase the cost of some plans. The move comes as Comcast Corp. enters the wireless price battle with a $45 unlimited data offer.

Starting Friday, Sprint said it will stop giving away free additional lines on group plans. The new offer keeps one line of unlimited data priced at $50 a month, and lowers the two-line plan to $80 from $90. Those are the two most popular choices, said Dave Tovar, a Sprint spokesman. The price change is on the three additional lines, which will cost $20 apiece. Those prices replace the two-line $90-a-month plans that allowed subscribers to add three additional lines for free.

Unlimited Plans by Carrier

1st line2nd line3rd line4th line
Comcast w/TV & internet*$45$90$135$180
Comcast w/internet*$65$130$195$230
* with autopay
** taxes and fees included
*** starting Friday

Sprint’s Chief Financial Officer Tarek Robbiati had said previously the company’s pricing was unsustainable. The No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier led the industry into its current price war with discount offers it dubbed 50 percent off. Now, the company is offering unlimited data plans at slightly higher prices in some instances.

“Our 50 percent off prices was a way to say ‘come check us out,’ ” said Allan Samson, a Sprint senior vice president in charge of prices. “It wasn’t a painful price level, but it began to feel clumsy in today’s unlimited market.”

The Overland Park, Kansas-based company is making the move as customers gravitate to unlimited data offers to save money on their Netflix and YouTube binge-viewing. Both Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. recently entered the unlimited data arena. For the industry, unlimited data threatens to depress profit growth and swamp networks with more traffic.

So far this year, 90 percent of Sprint’s new customers have opted for unlimited plans, Samson said.

Sprint’s new prices will be guaranteed for 12 months. The fees include high-definition video quality on phones and 10 gigabytes a month of hot-spot use. At the end the 12-month period Sprint has the option to change its prices, Samson said.

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