January 7, 2014

Sprint’s unlimited plans are locked in, but prices aren’t

Sprint chief executive Dan Hesse said in Las Vegas that the wireless carrier stands by its unlimited data plans but added that the prices can change.

Sprint Corp. will stand by its unlimited data plans for cellphone users for a long time, but not necessarily the price of those options, its chief executive said Tuesday.

Dan Hesse, fielding questions at an investor conference in Las Vegas, said the Overland Park-based company has the capacity to deliver all the data that subscribers of its unlimited plans could use.

“That doesn’t mean the price stays the same,” Hesse said.

Future unlimited plans, he said, are likely to appeal to a group of customers who will pay a premium so they don’t have to worry about how much data they have available.

He pointed out that Sprint added a $10 data surcharge to smartphone users because of their additional use of data-hungry features, which include watching videos and downloading apps.

T-Mobile US also offers unlimited data plans. AT&T and Verizon don’t have unlimited plans for new customers, instead offering plans that provide a set amount of data use each month.

Hesse said Sprint can keep its unlimited-for-life promise to those who sign up for such plans now because it has ample capacity from its wireless spectrum. These are the licensed airwaves that carry signals to mobile devices. Sprint gained a big swath of spectrum with its purchase of Clearwire Corp. last July.

The company does not have to offer unlimited data to new customers “forever,” Hesse said.

Separately, Sprint said its fastest service, dubbed Sprint Spark, is now available in six new markets mostly in Texas, in addition to five others announced previously. Spark takes advantage of the Clearwire spectrum and other technologies to promise increasing Internet speeds for mobile users.

Sprint also announced a new multiline wireless offering it calls the Sprint Framily Plan, which begins Friday. It “lets consumers decide who they consider family” by allowing friends, neighbors or any group to combine under one plan.

Accounts under the same plan can be billed separately.

The $55-a-month-per-line plan provides unlimited talk and texting plus 1 gigabyte of data. Unlimited data adds $20 to the bill. Up to 10 lines can share one plan, earning discounts of $5 each for additional line up to seven lines.

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