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3G/HSPA

Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

2:20 PM -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) will carry the iPhone 5 when it launches next month (Al Gore says it’s so!). (See Sprint's iPhone Opportunity and iPhone 5 Rumor du Jour: Coming Soon to Sprint?)

Sure, the carrier hasn’t actually admitted it will carry Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)’s next smartphone, but actions speak louder than words. Let’s look at Sprint's latest activity:

  • As of Sept. 9, Sprint’s early termination fee is $350, up from $200.
  • Sprint discontinued its Premier program, promising more information on the closing to come in a webcast Friday.
  • Sprint confirmed Thursday it will cap its currently unlimited $30 monthly mobile hotspot data usage at 5GB per month, effective on Oct. 2.
  • CEO Dan Hesse has also talked up the Sprint CDMA network’s ability and readiness to support the iPhone, hypothetically.
All of these changes reek of the iPhone 5. In fact, the one move Sprint has not made, and has assured customers it won’t for as long as it can, is to do away with unlimited data for its smartphone and tablets. Right now, that’s the one advantage Sprint has over its rivals when it comes to picking an iPhone carrier.

The traffic an influx of new Sprint iPhone users brings with it could force the carrier’s hand on capping data, but my guess is that without the unlimited data plans there won’t be an influx of new Sprint iPhone users.

Maybe that's why Sprint's being so coy.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:52:54 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

It is a predicament for Sprint -- advertise and talk up your unlimited plan for the iPhone to attract customers, but then risk pissing them all off when you do away with unlimited.


Curious what people think - are smartphone caps inevitable for Sprint?

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:52:53 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

It may be smart from a network management standpoint if they sell lots of iPhones but is it worth it to cannibalize the momentum you have been generating for non-iPhone 4G phones? I mean, the unlimited hotspot is something that any power user can see as an advantage to having a Sprint plan. My guess is that Sprint's iPhone sales will be to existing users so -- give up any 4G lead to make sure you keep your third-place base? Dunno how smart that is.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:52:53 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

It may be smart from a network management standpoint if they sell lots of iPhones but is it worth it to cannibalize the momentum you have been generating for non-iPhone 4G phones? I mean, the unlimited hotspot is something that any power user can see as an advantage to having a Sprint plan. My guess is that Sprint's iPhone sales will be to existing users so -- give up any 4G lead to make sure you keep your third-place base? Dunno how smart that is.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:52:53 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

Since the iPhone 5 will be CDMA-only, their 4G network won't help. It'll be interesting to see how quickly the 3G network gets loaded up with the iPhone and 4G phones falling back to it. It will definitely hurt their value prop if they ditch unlimited. But Hesse has left the door open for tiers, and I think the iPhone is the reason why.


I wonder if Sprint throttles instead of charges for overages, would that make a difference to anyone?

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:52:53 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

I have to say I'm surprised to see Sprint joining the non-unlimited crowd so soon after running those "truly unlimited" TV ads on just about every football game the first few weeks of the season. What are they going to say now -- "we're kinda unlimited?" That stuff doesn't fly very far.


I don't think everyone expected them to keep unlimited forever, but it is possible that they are now hitting network numbers that are really impacting the loads -- say if they sold another ~1.7 million 4G devices and a lot of those are to folks who bought them expressly for the unlimited edge -- could be that the Clearwire network is finally loading up.


But -- why would you buy an iPhone from Sprint if the one edge Sprint has -- true unlimited use -- is now capped like all the rest? Seems like they are throwing the value proposition away. And opening themselves up for some serious retalitory advertisements from competitors like Verizon who are both marketing-savvy and have more bucks to burn than Sprint.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:52:53 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

I have to say I'm surprised to see Sprint joining the non-unlimited crowd so soon after running those "truly unlimited" TV ads on just about every football game the first few weeks of the season. What are they going to say now -- "we're kinda unlimited?" That stuff doesn't fly very far.


I don't think everyone expected them to keep unlimited forever, but it is possible that they are now hitting network numbers that are really impacting the loads -- say if they sold another ~1.7 million 4G devices and a lot of those are to folks who bought them expressly for the unlimited edge -- could be that the Clearwire network is finally loading up.


But -- why would you buy an iPhone from Sprint if the one edge Sprint has -- true unlimited use -- is now capped like all the rest? Seems like they are throwing the value proposition away. And opening themselves up for some serious retalitory advertisements from competitors like Verizon who are both marketing-savvy and have more bucks to burn than Sprint.

jepovic 12/5/2012 | 4:52:51 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

"But -- why would you buy an iPhone from Sprint if the one edge Sprint has -- true unlimited use -- is now capped like all the rest? Seems like they are throwing the value proposition away."


True, but I'm sure Sprint has thought about that as well. This cannot have been an easy decision to make. The logical conclusion must be that they have had serious problems with their unlimited plan.


eaqle3c 12/5/2012 | 4:52:51 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

actually throttling is something people mind; I do. suddenly after 22nd of every month the rate would drop and unless there is a "top up" mechanism, your smartphone drags for the last week or so.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:52:49 PM
re: Sprint Tiptoes Around the iPhone 5

I think Sprint is learning that consumers don't know what's going on in the network and care more about the device than the service they're getting.


So to compete, they don't need to be the best value around, they need to have a device selection that's on par with what AT&T and Verizon offer. Period.


Unlimited data is a nice idea but the growth of iPhone users each quarter suggests that unlimited data is not what consumers really want. They'd rather get the device they want and figure out how to mitigate their bills.


ph

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