Should Sprint stick to unlimited data?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: June 10, 2011

The wireless carriers have to find a way to stand out amidst the competition, and each one of them finds a different way to do this. Whether it’s promoting a brand of devices, promoting their data speeds, or showcasing their prices it all comes down to the differences for customers. Are they getting the best deal, the best coverage and the best device they possibly can for the money they’re slapping down? As of right now, AT&T is the only major wireless carrier that’s openly moved to tiered data plans, but we know that Verizon is hard at work on issuing their own version of these types of plans for release sometime in the summer. But, both T-Mobile and Sprint are still focusing on providing unlimited everything they can for a set price a month, and so far it seems to be working for them. But Sprint may be shaking things up a bit in just a couple of days if a new report pans out, which puts Sprint in a very interesting position.

As of right now, Sprint’s Everything Data plans start at $69.99 and allow for a plethora of unlimited options for a minimum monthly charge. In the plan, you get access to unlimited data (surprise, surprise), unlimited calling to any mobile phones out there (in the United States, mind you), and unlimited text messages. You also get a certain monthly allotment for Anytime minutes, which let you call landlines. If you have a smartphone, then you’re paying an extra $10 a month right off the bat. However, Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse has always noted that he believes people will pay a little extra to have unlimited, and so far that seems to be working quite well for Sprint.

And let’s face it; this is probably one of the biggest factors in Sprint’s favor these days. Yes, the Now Network was the first to bring widespread (relatively speaking) 4G coverage to the United States, but now that all four of the major wireless carriers have their 4G networks up and running, with devices ready to utilize the new network, Sprint can no longer use their 4G solidarity as a focal point. But, they still can use their cheap monthly costs for unlimited features, and it’s one that the company is very willing to show off.

A new report suggests that Sprint is ready to move to “buckets of data,” or shared data plans. This would mean that a family of devices, whether they are 3G or 4G, would be pulling data from a figurative bucket, together. It will no longer be about a single device having access to an unlimited amount of minutes, but the collection of devices pulling from a central source to get that data when they need it. This actually isn’t the first time that we’ve heard something along these lines, as CEO Dan Hesse has made mention of something like this happening in the past. However, as of right now there’s little to no information about what this means for Sprint customers, let alone how much it will cost or whether or not it will be an unlimited bucket these customers pull from.

This will be a big moment for Sprint, I think. If the company is indeed getting ready to unveil shared data plans, then they will be able to make a huge splash if they don’t make it a set amount of GB (or MB) customers have access to. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Sprint unveil a 5GB bucket for shared data plans, which would obviously put some relief on Sprint’s network in some areas, while it would only frustrate subscribers in other areas. And, depending on how many people on a shared account use data; or a lot of data specifically, that 5GB of data could disappear relatively quickly.

The big splash could come if Sprint unveils an unlimited bucket for these customers, or even a number high enough that “unlimited” would be the essential belief. If you have a bucket of 10GB of data per month, I don’t think a family could use that much in a month’s time. I mean, they could if they really, really tried, but on a normal month-to-month basis, I think 10GB would safely put most users in an “unlimited” bubble. But it’s still a bucket, and still has a certain amount per month.

But, if Sprint does indeed plan on unveiling shared data plans, and if they do indeed keep everything in the unlimited standard, then it’s intriguing to think that Sprint would change anything at all, let alone introduce new plans. But hey, as long as people keep getting those instant rebates, maybe no one will mind. Let me know what you think Sprint’s plans are for shared data, and let me know if you’d be a fan of something like that – especially if you’re already using an Everything Data plan right now.