Sprint Drops Prices, But Also Speeds?

Sprint is now offering individuals unlimited data for only $60, lower than T-Mobile's $80 plan, and unlimited unlike AT&T and Verizon's offers. But before you get excited, take a real close look at the fine print.

You'll see that customers who are currently under a one- or two-year service agreement with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) that move to the new $60 unlimited plan will have a higher monthly rate of up to $25 per month until they reach upgrade eligibility. That's frustrating, but not uncommon -- but read some more, and you'll find out:

"Usage Limitations: Other plans may receive prioritized bandwidth availability. To improve data experience for the majority of users, throughput may be limited, varied or reduced on the network." (See Sprint Unveils $60 Unlimited Plan.)

Similar wriggle room was given on its family plan as well -- noting that, "To improve the data experience for the majority of users, throughput speeds may be limited, varied or reduced on the network." But to actually deprioritize those customers who opt for a cheaper plan seems wrong to me -- even potentially a violation of net neutrality principles, if the Internet companies get their way and mobile traffic is treated the same as fixed. (See Sprint's New Family Plans Double Down on Data and Internet Giants Speak Up for Net Neutrality.)

Get all the latest Sprint news on Light Reading's dedicated mobile channel.

Sprint is promising bold changes to get back in the game, but it seems like it's not going far enough at the moment. I'm not sure who who would want to switch, knowing that Sprint's network is an acknowledged work in progress and they could get slower speeds than their peers on the same network? It doesn't seem like a winning combination. (See Sprint CEO: Price Cuts First, Best Network Next .)

Sprint will have to do more if it wants to take on the big two and fend off T-Mobile US Inc. The self-proclaimed "uncarrier" put out a new promotion today promising to give customers that recruit a customer from Sprint or another carrier a free year of unlimited LTE data, or a $10 per month credit if they already have an unlimited plan. For $60, T-Mobile offers 3GB of "unlimited" 4G data and then throttles the speed; $70 sets the threshold at 5GB, and $80 is fully unlimited. (See T-Mobile Tweaks Sprint Again With New Offer .)

It's clear a price war is imminent, but I hope to see a real one, rather than seemingly good deals that you have to dig deep into to find the real costs associated, monetary or otherwise. (See Sprint, T-Mobile: The Price War's On.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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DHagar 8/21/2014 | 8:30:24 PM
Re: Sprint Drops Prices @SReedy, completely agree - they must think that either their customers won't read the fine print or are stupid; in addition to potentially being a practice in violation of rules.

What is the status on the proposed new net neutrality rules?
midnightprism 8/21/2014 | 9:38:02 PM
Nothing new All plans dating back to Unlimited Guarantee for Life have had this same fine print. It's nothing new or concerning. 
thebulk 8/22/2014 | 5:33:29 AM
Re: Nothing new It's true, this is nothing new at all. All the providers having been playing these games for a while, sad but true.
Gabriel Brown 8/22/2014 | 6:39:07 AM
Re: Nothing new I don't see a problem with this. Presumably you have to add these caveats to the T&Cs in case you want/need to use traffic management technqiues later. It probably doesn't do much to protect Sprint against the sense of entitlement some users (customers!) have to unrealistic (unaffordable from a network technology perpsctive) speeds, but perhaps it helps ward-off spurious legal challenges.

One of the greatest things about 4G is how it can provide mass-market, affordable broadband services. Through that comes information, work, education, democracy, and so on. To achieve mass-market price points there has to be some compromise.
thebulk 8/22/2014 | 8:28:22 AM
Re: Nothing new I will say that I do miss 4g from the US what they call 3G in Thailand is just not up to par.
mendyk 8/22/2014 | 8:56:33 AM
Re: Nothing new The problem continues to be somewhat deceptive wording from the marketeers. Customers understandably see the boldface parts of the sales pitch (HIGH-SPEED NETWORK and UNLIMITED and LOWEST PRICE, etc.) and presume they are all part of the deal. But if truth in advertising were a legal requirement, there would be very little advertising. And without advertising, where would the global economy be?
sarahthomas1011 8/22/2014 | 9:26:22 AM
Re: Nothing new But what is unique about this is it isn't a blanket statement about the right to slow down speeds, it's noting that this particular plan could be deprioritized. That, to me, indicates they are offering this so-called great, cheap plan with unlimited LTE data, but because you chose the cheap one, you aren't going to get the speeds as others. It's penalizing new customers for taking advantage of a deal.
mendyk 8/22/2014 | 10:22:53 AM
Re: Nothing new At this point, most reasonable people understand the relationship between price and service levels. But the service provider needs to make the parameters clear, which isn't happening with mobile service plans.
sarahthomas1011 8/22/2014 | 10:26:58 AM
Re: Nothing new I agree that it is blurry across the board, but I don't think they do or should expect anything different from a $60 unlimited LTE plan or an $160 one if both are advertised as unlimited LTE. Paying less for 3G, yes, but not when it's the same thing, otherwise it stops being a deal.
mendyk 8/22/2014 | 10:31:39 AM
Re: Nothing new Well... right. The service pitches are incomplete at best, and misleading or deceptive at worst. Again, less-than-forthright advertising isn't an issue limited to mobile operators.
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