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Sprint network upgrade to LTE could lead to end of unlimited data

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Sprint network upgrade to LTE could lead to end of unlimited data
With Sprint holding on to its unlimited data plan as a way to differentiate itself from the other large U.S. carriers, there is a question of just how long the nation's third largest carrier will be able to continue to offer this service. Sprint has committed itself to switching from WiMax to LTE for 4G connectivity, essentially shooting itself in the foot more than just once. After all, Sprint is the largest stockholder of Clearwire, the parent company of the WiMax service being replaced by LTE. Sprint has said that it will still offer phones using WiMax 4G through the end of 2012.The main problem is that once the carrier has built out its LTE pipeline, it might have to stop offering the unlimited pricing plans.

The carrier is spending $7 billion to build its LTE network, using unused 1900MHz spectrum. And if the company can get regulatory approval, it will use spectrum in the 800MHz range for LTE service as well, by early 2014. That spectrum is currently used by Sprint for its IDEN network which is being phased out by 2013. According to Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, the carrier will start an "aggressive rollout" of LTE with the first devices for it launching in the middle of next year. The problem, according to Reuters, is that Sprint has committed only 10MHz of spectrum to LTE while Verizon and AT&T are working with twice that amount of spectrum for their respective LTE build-out. As a result, should LTE become popular among the carrier's customers, Sprint might find itself with a 4G pipeline offering its customers slower browsing speeds and putting a huge strain on the network.

If this scenario plays out, the more popular LTE becomes at Sprint, the slower the service might become. Tolaga Research analyst Phil Marshall says that the carrier's version of LTE is "bare-bones" and without the spectrum to expand, speeds will have to come down as the number of users go up. Marshall says that in this situation, Sprint will have to stop offering unlimited service plans. "Unlimited is going to kill them, I think they're going to have to back off from the all-you-can-eat plan," says the analyst.

While other analysts say that Sprint will have no choice but to kill off the unlimited service plans, it could still have a selling tool by offering higher caps than the competition, which could still drive business over to the mobile operator. Currently, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile offer tiered pricing which punishes those going over the data cap by charging a penalty fee or by throttling data speeds in certain circumstances until the current month is over. Speculation that Sprint would start throttling data this past summer obviously turned out to be incorrect.

source: Reuters

31 Comments
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posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:29 1

1. roscuthiii (Posts: 1785; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)


Really?! Never woulda thunk it! ;-P

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 04:52

21. rendHELL (Posts: 304; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)


I think Sprint would not kill it's unlimited service for mobile handsets... why?? because that's what makes Sprint different with other carriers... If they take off the unlimited... Then it's gonna be bye bye for Sprint...

What do you think guys???

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 06:09 1

22. apocalypsebc (Posts: 148; Member since: 07 Dec 2010)


Sprint will keep the unlimited plan and play catch up with LTE~4G. There is no real reason for Sprint to stop the Unlimited data. Don't believe the assumptions! ;-)

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:39 1

2. cheeseycheeser (Posts: 379; Member since: 24 Mar 2011)


NOOOOO!!! D': I mean it's not surprising. I just hope they can avoid this....

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 13:53 1

3. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5599; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


Well, Sprint has almost killed its unlimited data plans already. The only remaining unlimited data plans are those for handsets.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 16:49 1

11. Gotchafone (Posts: 23; Member since: 15 Nov 2011)


Which are the only things anyone really cares about.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:01 4

4. NBAJ2K (Posts: 4; Member since: 27 Nov 2011)


If they do end unlimited plans, hopefully those of us that currently have them will be grandfathered in to keep unlimited data when getting new handsets (following Verizon's lead). Otherwise there will be many unhappy customers that will be looking to jump ship.

I just wish Hesse would let us know now that our unlimited plans are safe... as far as I understand, no one was grandfathered in to unlimited when they switched to tiered data for the data cards....

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:07 1

5. NBAJ2K (Posts: 4; Member since: 27 Nov 2011)


I'm still toying with the idea of switching to Verizon while they have the "double the data" plans... not sure how long those are going to be offered for...

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:34 2

6. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5599; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


And if you live in an area where VZW has implemented LTE, you will be blown away by the speed differential. The fastest I ever saw WiMax operate at on my EVO-3D was 6 mb/s down. The slowest I have seen VZW\'s LTE on my RAZR has been in the 12 mb/s down territory. Most of the time, LTE is running around 20 mb/s down on the S.F. peninsula.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 16:50

12. Gotchafone (Posts: 23; Member since: 15 Nov 2011)


Double data goes til January

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:50 7

7. The_Miz (Posts: 1496; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)


There goes PA spreading rumors and inaccurate info again. Sprint has already said unlimited data will remain. In order to be credible, you cant fuel off of speculation.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 16:42 2

9. LordBonztie (Posts: 51; Member since: 14 Nov 2011)


sprint will still have unlimited data.
dont believe the rumours.
i work for sprint - care.
it is not true.

posted on 29 Nov 2011, 23:26

31. neddy4322 (Posts: 3; Member since: 29 Nov 2011)


That's what Verizon said also. But the logisitcs of offering speed upwards of 1gbps (at some point) is that it would be incredible what people could do with it. Torrents/videos on a crap load of computers. Isn't enough backload to it to make it feesable, caps will come, but WHEN is the question. VZW placed caps after it had already invested 11 billion from January of 2011 to July of 2011. It's EXPENSIVE rolling out a network! (Yes both years in the dates listed are supposed to be 2011!)

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 17:08 1

13. rcrider4 (Posts: 118; Member since: 14 Nov 2011)


They said they will keep unlimited data "as long as it is profitable". The speeds haven't been listed as a factor yet, but then again, they aren't an issue yet. I guess we just have to wait and see?

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 14:56 2

8. sid8911 (Posts: 50; Member since: 29 May 2010)


cant wait till 5g :D

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 09:59

25. EvoHero (Posts: 38; Member since: 15 May 2011)


Hope you don't mind waiting 10 years.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G#Prognosis

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 16:43 1

10. skymitch89 (Posts: 1040; Member since: 05 Nov 2010)


I think that they might go to something like Verizon for their 4G LTE network, offer 5 or 10Gb of data for a certain price; but still offer unlimited 3G data. I just hope that they increase the speed of their 3G because I'm getting annoyed with getting like .65Mbps download. I used to get like 1.1Mbps before the summer started.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 17:49 1

14. codymws (Posts: 237; Member since: 17 Jun 2010)


Unlimited data is pretty much the only thing Sprint has going for them. If they get rid of unlimited data, there really aren't any reasons to go with Sprint over any other carrier, other than the somewhat lower price.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 17:53

15. freemarketeer (Posts: 25; Member since: 05 Jun 2010)


It is relevant to note that there is a caveat to Sprint's "Unlimited" data plan offering. They only offer unlimited data usage on their native network (which is less than 40% of their total coverage area). If you are off-network, you only get 300 MB per month.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 19:00

16. ardent1 (Posts: 1991; Member since: 16 Apr 2011)


Or they can adopt the MetroPCS model -- unlimited 4G data for web surfing and a limit for videos, movies, etc.

I spend most of my time web surfing so 2 to 3 Mbps is plenty fast. There are times when I watch youtube videos or download software like iOS 5.0, but those are the exception.

So if Sprint went and offer unlimited 4G with a 2.5 GB monthly limit on the typical data intense downloading, it might work. Or, Sprint can throttle their speeds to like 5 Mbps.

The third alternative is to get its users to pay for the bandwidth. Charge more for the unlimited service.

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 19:09 1

17. belovedson (Posts: 832; Member since: 30 Nov 2010)


it seems everyone outside of sprint wants sprints unlimited plan to go away. then these same people will project sprint being bought out by somebody.

seriously whats with the quality of journalism from this site.

this place is becoming a serious rumor mill

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 20:18

18. The_Miz (Posts: 1496; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)


You actually expected anything less from this site? Lol they gave the 4S an 8, so their credibility is gone.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 19:50 1

29. hepresearch (unregistered)


For Miz, they could only be credible if they gave the iPhone 4S an unconditional and undisputed 10... anything less, and the credibility is totally just plain gone...

=8-P

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 22:39

19. DigitalMD (Posts: 226; Member since: 17 Feb 2010)


Any excuse to rake more $$$ out of your pocket.
How's this, we upgraded our network so it would be faster, now we can't allow you to actually use it. OMG, what a laugh.................

posted on 27 Nov 2011, 23:56

20. jroc74 (Posts: 4720; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)


Are some of yall even reading the article and the title?

Title: "upgrade to LTE....could........lead to end"

From the article:
".......might...........have to stop offering unlimited"

"...........analyst said..........Sprint will have to stop offering unlimited"

And some of yall question the journalism....I question the reading comprehension of some of its readers. Its no different then speculating and rumors about future iPhones and iPads, future Android phones, future WP7 sales...This article is no different than the ones about Verizon going to tiered data plans. Those rumors turned out to be true.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 08:54

23. dc25998 (Posts: 1; Member since: 28 Nov 2011)


Analysts...Sometimes I wonder how they get the title. Sprint may be comitting 10 MHZ in 1900 frequency, but what about in 800? What about the spectrum they are getting from swapping some of that 800 that\'s supposedly leaking over into the emergency bands? What about Clearwires 120 MHz at 2.5Ghz that they are currently using only 20 MHz for WiMax. What about their deal with LightSquared. Dan already said network vision would allow broadcasting of multiple technologies over multiple frequencies. Add up all the spectrum they have with their partners and the investments they are making over the next two years...Yeah. That guy at Rueters needs to find a new profession.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 09:06 1

24. hepresearch (unregistered)


In business success, it is now no longer good enough to just be different from your competitors. In fact, success in business these days seems to rely more and more on showing that you are identical to the industry top-dog in every way but your brand name. Cases-in-point... Verizon Wireless (network service provider), Apple (devices), LTE (network technology), Google (integrated internet-based/cloud services)... Sprint is now going to emulate Verizon, because the majority of people are now comfortable with trusting service providers like Verizon to ration the internet out to them via data-caps and/or throttling. It was inevitable.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 11:23

26. ECPirate37 (Posts: 88; Member since: 14 Jul 2011)


What I want to see mentioned in these articles about Sprint and a lack of Bandwidth is how Clearwire and eventually (hopefully) Lightsquared will play into it. I know Clearwire needs financing to make the switch to LTE, but when they do, Sprint will unload some of their burder onto them. And if Lightsquared gets approval, then there will also be that option.

And I am not giving an opinion on this matter; I would like to see it written about though.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 15:06

27. downphoenix (Posts: 2293; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)


so upgrading to a faster, higher capacity network means getting rid of unlimited data? what solid logic!

posted on 29 Nov 2011, 09:44 1

30. Fallout09 (Posts: 413; Member since: 17 Oct 2011)


I am with you on this one. Service providers have increase their network speed to allow you faster access implementing a more efficien way to transfer data.... Yet they continue to redcuce the amount data you can consume. I compare this to getting a brand new Ferrari but are only allowed to drive it fast 1 day a week on the road the size of a football field. Yes, it is fast in that short distance and I bet you look good doing it... but it basiclly renders the car utterly pointless and leaves you completely unsatisfied in the long run.

posted on 28 Nov 2011, 17:53

28. nique0201 (Posts: 2; Member since: 28 Nov 2011)


Sprint should keep unlimited data, but put a limet on the 4g aspect of it.... so unlimited 3g but tiered 4g data like 3 6 and 10 gigs of 4g or something like that that would attract customers and pay for the 4g..

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