Sprint Corp. announced a $60-a-month unlimited data plan Thursday, after adding a shared data offering for families earlier this week.
The offer, widely expected after Sprint’s family plan deal Monday, undercuts rival T-Mobile US Inc.’s unlimited offering of $80 a month.
“People know Sprint for Unlimited,” chief executive Marcelo Claure said in the announcement. “Unlimited talk, text and data for $60 is the best unlimited postpaid plan available.”
Roger Entner, with Recon Analytics, called the move aggressive but added that it may not stir a response.
“I think T-Mobile is going to ignore it and see what kind of impact it has on its finances,” Entner said. “It’s a relatively small (part of the) market.”
Sprint’s shared data plan announced Monday targets families, which is a much larger part of the market. It also aims to compete most directly with AT&T and Verizon, which offer shared data plans but not unlimited plans. AT&T and Verizon each have more customers than Sprint and T-Mobile have together.
Customers are eligible for Sprint’s $60 unlimited plan if they buy a phone through Sprint’s installment plan, pay full price for the device or bring their own phone compatible to its network.
Sprint’s announcement followed T-Mobile’s jab-laced announcement of a referral program that would provide a one-year unlimited upgrade or $10 a month credit for customers who “rescue beleaguered Sprint” customers over to T-Mobile.
“Sprint’s customers have suffered much. They’ve endured the Framily. They’ve endured America’s slowest nationwide LTE network,” it said.
T-Mobile’s referral credit is available for recruiting customers from AT&T and Verizon, too.
Sprint’s announcement, which followed T-Mobile’s earlier in the day, made a bit of a jab back. It said Sprint’s plan is better than the promotional price at T-Mobile, and customers “don’t have to jump through T-Mobile’s hoops and recruit their friends.”
Recruiting new customers was a key feature of Sprint’s Framily plan, which it is dropping Friday. Consumers would earn bigger discounts by adding more subscribers to their Framily accounts. Anyone could join a Framily as the billing was handled separated, and some Sprint customers offered their Framily accounts on eBay.
Jeff Hallock, Sprint’s chief marketing officer, responded to a T-Mobile comment that Sprint forgot about its existing customers with its new plans. He said any Sprint customer who has gone past the original 24-month contract without upgrading his phone can switch plans, as can any customer who adds lines to an account.
Also, he said, if one person on a family account upgrades his phone through Sprint’s Easy Pay installments then the entire account can switch to the $60 unlimited or Sprint Family Share Pack plans.
“Most of our customers, if they want to, have the ability to migrate,” he said.
Sprint’s shift from Framily to its Sprint Family Share Pack and new unlimited pricing add to a shifting market for consumers to figure out. AT&T and T-Mobile made changes earlier this year, and Verizon recently added a $60-a-month Single Line plan that provides 2 gigabytes of data.
Analyst Paul de Sa at Bernstein Research weighed the four large carriers’ plans in a report Thursday that concluded it would “almost always make economic sense for ‘rational’ subscribers to change carriers” because each company sets up plans to attract switchers.
Other factors, his report said, keep most subscribers in place. Companies’ networks vary in speed, coverage and quality, and comparing plans is difficult. His own analysis included 22 graphs showing the outcomes of switching options he examined for an imagined individual customer and for a family of three.
Sprint fared poorly in de Sa’s analysis, though he noted that its new shared data plan “materially improved Sprint’s pricing.” It simply wasn’t enough improvement to dislodge “T-Mobile as the low-price destination in any of the family plan scenarios” for switching services.