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Sprint Tweaks Unlimited Data Rules in Best Buy Plan

Sarah Thomas
6/29/2015
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Sprint may have found a way to keep unlimited data around for a while longer, this week revealing an unlimited data plan with Best Buy with some new fine print attached.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CEO Marcelo Claure said at the Recode conference that he may have to increase prices or do away with unlimited data as usage -- especially from video streaming -- continues to rise. (See Sprint CEO Claims Next-Gen Network Will Be #1.)

The carrier today unveiled a new plan with Best Buy that continues with unlimited data and low prices, but does have a few stipulations in place to ensure it can keep up with the demand. The Best Buy One Family Plan includes two lines of unlimited talk, text and data for $100 per month.

Additional lines can be added for $40 per month. The plan is an evolution of the Best Buy One Plan that Sprint and Best Buy introduced in March. Both require no money down and offer the ability to purchase the smartphone or trade up at the end of the lease period.

Sprint has always included fine print that extreme bandwidth users may be limited to improve the data experience of the majority, but this announcement adds more restrictions -- or at least more details on what the restrictions include. (See Sprint Drops Prices, But Also Speeds?)

Sprint's offer sheet says that "streaming video speeds will be limited to 600Kbps at all times, which may impact quality." And, it says, "Sprint may terminate service if off-network roaming usage in a month exceeds: (1) 800 min. or a majority of min.; or (2) 100MB or a majority of KB." Previous plan announcements have not included this notation, but a spokeswoman is checking on when the policy was enacted.

Sprint is still, however, playing up the unlimited angle. It notes in its announcement that both AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless no longer offer unlimited data plans to new customers. It also suggests that Sprint customers will save nearly $400 over two years for two unlimited lines and two Samsung Galaxy S6 leases compared to the comparable Simple Choice plan on T-Mobile US Inc. (See Sprint, T-Mobile: The Price War's On.)


For more on LTE data plans and usage, visit the dedicated 4G/LTE content section here on Light Reading.


Unlimited hasn't meant pure and simple unlimited for any of the operators for a long time now. The throttling practices of AT&T and Verizon have earned them a slap on the hand from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission in the past. (See FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit, Verizon Nixes LTE Throttling After Backlash, FCC Boss 'Disturbed' By Verizon Throttling and Verizon Applies 3G Throttling Policy to LTE.)

T-Mobile, the only other carrier to still market unlimited besides Sprint, also recently tweaked its terms and conditions to make it clear when it begins throttling its heaviest data users' LTE usage. T-Mo News reports that its fine print now indicates that LTE customers who use more than 21GB of data in a bill cycle will have their "data de-prioritized compared to other customers for that bill cycle at locations and times when competing network demands occur, resulting in relatively slower speed."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
7/1/2015 | 11:26:15 AM
Sprint reverses video policy
Here's what being transparent gets you -- Sprint is now reversing its video policy based on customer feedback, after including it in its annoucement of the Best Buy plan. It's still leaving wiggle room for it to manage network congestion when needed, but said today it would no longer limit video streaming to 600 kbps. 

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure Tweeted the news:

We heard you loud and clear and we are removing the 600 kbps on streaming video. #Allin and we won't stop

Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
6/30/2015 | 10:09:30 AM
Sprint goes all in
More Sprint news today -- http://newsroom.sprint.com/news-releases/sprint-seeks-to-end-consumer-confusion-frustration-with-wireless-industrys-first-ever-all-in-pricing-plan.htm?view_id=2694

Sprint introduced another new pricing plan today, "All In," claiming it simplifies pricing down to $20 for device + $60 for service (although you also have to tack on all the taxes and fees). This plan is $10 more than its previous iPhone for Life plan, but it says is a better deal than its competitors, and easier to understand.

Sprint says it is pushing for transparency in wireless pricing and usage, hence the further explanation of its data policy and today's new plan.
Kevin Runners
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Kevin Runners,
User Rank: Light Beer
6/30/2015 | 4:25:21 AM
Nice !
What a big news day !
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
6/29/2015 | 6:09:43 PM
Sprint clarifications
I just heard from a Sprint spokeswoman about the its unlimited plans. It sounds like most of the policies have been in place for awhile now, tweaked over time, and it wants to make sure its Best Buy customers are familar with them. It's good they are being so transparent with the heightened scrutiny around unlimited today.

She says: "Sprint has employed streaming video limitations on plans since July 2013, with minor modifications over time. Sprint has included this language in its latest Best Buy announcement to ensure that Best Buy customers are informed that they are choosing Sprint plans that limit streaming video throughput."  
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/29/2015 | 3:50:01 PM
Re: limits on unlimited
I have a hard time envisioning this will affect too many users. On mobile devices, I think for the most part it is difficult to stream a ton of video. Notwithstanding the face that such devices are hard to hold in place for a long time, the battery life on mobile gadgets simply are not equipped for continous loops of video. 
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
6/29/2015 | 2:29:31 PM
Sprint news
It's a big news day for Sprint. In addition to our Accelerator story and the new Best Buy plan, it also announced four additional states for its Direct 2 U device set-up program -- LA, NYC, San Fran & Denver -- and two new LG phones for Boost Mobile, the LG Tribute 2 and Volt 2.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
6/29/2015 | 2:26:42 PM
limits on unlimited
Sprint's approach seems a lot more generous than T-Mobile's blanket speed throttling plan. Both should only apply to extreme data users and at high congestion times or in high congestion places. I bet most of its users won't be affected, but it's still good to know the limits of unlimited.
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