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.)
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, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading