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Apple iPhone 5: Will Sprint's Unlimited Data Plan Last?

News analysis: Sprint will emerge with the Apple iPhone 5 in October, but how long will it offer unlimited data?

In the news today, the question lingers. Will Sprint really be able to offer Apple iPhone 5 users unlimited data? Probably. How long will it last? Not forever.

Given numerous reports online and last week's leak of a Best Buy document that lists Sprint as a carrier for the iPhone 5 October arrival, it's clear now that the Sprint iPhone 5 is almost upon us.

Around the Web today, speculation mounted about Sprint's plans to push back a planned 4G smartphone and a RIM Blackberry Curve 9350 3G phone. It's all to get ready for the expected iPhone 5 launch.

Makes sense. Verizon saw great results when it became the iPhone's second carrier. AT&T iPhones were notorious for poor reception and dropped calls, especially in tech-heavy, hilly San Francisco and surrounds. As my colleague Charles Babcock quips, having an AT&T iPhone means never having to say goodbye.

Sprint's offer of an unlimited data plan isn't at all outragous. Already, it offers other smartphones users unlimited data contracts for a flat $99.99-a-month fee.

But the iPhone 5 is a different beast entirely. How much money is Sprint willing to lose and for how long -- that' s my question. I don't doubt Sprint will offer an unlimited plan; certainly AT&T and Verizon offered unlimited plans on their iPhone contracts -- but they later nixed them.

Only early subscribers got to keep those plans. If you're thinking about the iPhone 5, as so many are, you might want to get in on a Sprint unlimited plan early and hope you get grandfathered in. Nothing lasts forever.

Based in San Francisco, Gina Smith is editor-in-chief of BYTE. Follow her @ginasmith888 and email her comments, suggestions and story tips at [email protected]

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