Sprint Boosts Price Of Unlimited Data Plan

The carrier says the $10 increase is to cover the costs of people increasingly using their devices to play games, download applications, and browse the Web.
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Sprint has raised the monthly rate of its unlimited data service for smartphones by $10, saying it needs more money to cover the costs of people increasingly using their devices to play games, download applications, and browse the Web.

The wireless carrier announced the rate hike Tuesday. Starting Jan. 30, people activating a smartphone will pay $80 a month for unlimited service, compared to $70 a month today. The new pricing is only for smartphones, including Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Windows Mobile devices, Hewlett-Packard's Palm, and phones running Google's Android operating system.

Sprint already implemented an additional $10-a-month charge for accessing its 4G high-speed network. Phones capable of accessing the network included the HTC EVO, HTC EVO Shift, and Samsung Epic. Service prices for these devices won't change.

Sprint says smartphone customers on average use 10 times more data than other mobile phone customers. That's because the former have access to more data capabilities, applications, and other functions than traditional feature phones. For example, smartphones can access thousands of applications through online stores, such as the Android Market. They also are used for Web browsing and watching online video.

The heavy data usage has increased network maintenance and expansion costs, making the price hike necessary, according to Sprint. The carrier argues that even at $10 a month more, the unlimited service is still a better deal than rivals' tiered-pricing plans.

"Sprint's unlimited data plans, with or without the $10 charge, continue to beat the offerings of our top national competitors," Bob Johnson, president of Sprint's consumer business, said in a statement.

Sprint's higher data price is likely to be more troubling to people who are not heavy data users. Sprint customers who considered themselves heavy data users seemed to take the rate hike in stride in comments on Sprint's Facebook page. "$10 for everyone so we can continue to use unlimited data isn't that bad," Jorge Brooks said.

Others believed having unlimited data wasn't worth the higher price. "$10 more on 3G data? That hurts, because even though my plan is $69.99 a month, after fees and taxes, it ends up being around $100," Charlton Butler Jr. says.

Sprint's latest announcement comes about a week after it dropped the price of a Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet by $100 to $299 on a two-year service contract. Sprint has scheduled a Feb. 7 press event, which industry observers expect to involve either a tablet or smartphone announcement.