Sprint plan to add $10 'Premium Data' smartphone fee might be a tough sell
Getting a new smartphone from Sprint will cost you an extra $10 a month, starting Jan. 30. The carrier announced that it's extending the "Premium Data" surcharge it already levies on data service for 4G smartphones to its entire lineup of Web and app-capable phones, raising the price of its Everything Data bundle of unlimited data and unlimited texting to $39.99.
An accompanying statement suggests that Sprint took this step to avoid "limits and overage charges on data plans for wireless phones as competitors have done." But only AT&T has done that, ending its unlimited-data offering last June.
A comparison chart (PDF) shows that with the new fee, Sprint charges the same as T-Mobile for a bundle of 450 minutes of calling time, unlimited data use and unlimited texting; Verizon charges about $10 more and AT&T $5 extra. What it doesn't say is that if you don't need unlimited texting, you can now save money elsewhere. It also doesn't factor in T-Mobile's cheaper "Even More Plus" plans for customers who bring their own phones to the carrier or buy them from T-Mobile at unsubsidized prices.
The chart shows a consistent advantage for Sprint with unlimited-calling plans--which few users need these days.
Sprint's PR statement clarifies that current Sprint subscribers won't see the extra fee until they upgrade to a new smartphone and defines that category of phone as "devices with robust operating systems bringing the full function of mobile applications and programs to life including Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile, Palm, and the Instinct family of devices."
(Sprint still sells Windows Mobile and Instinct devices? I didn't know.)
Sprint's other sales problem is the widespread identification of the Premium Data fee as a 4G surcharge. It debuted with the Evo 4G last year; the press release at the time explained that the extra cost paid for "a richer data experience than ever before." Since that release used the abbreviation "4G" no fewer than 48 times, I think we can forgive Sprint users for thinking of this as a "4G fee."
DSLReports was less kind in its writeup, labeling it a "Because We Can Fee."
Sprint doesn't mention another issue affecting its cost structure: the "special access" fees it pays to landline-based carriers like AT&T and Verizon for upstream connections from its cell sites. Then again, T-Mobile is in the same boat and hasn't changed its data rates... at least not yet.
I have to think Sprint is banking on price hikes from T-Mobile and Verizon--which seems plausible in the latter's case, since it has yet to say what data service will cost for its upcoming version of the iPhone 4. What's your read on this?
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