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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 01/18/2011

Sprint plan to add $10 'Premium Data' smartphone fee might be a tough sell

By Rob Pegoraro

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.

sprint_logo.jpg

The Overland Park, Kan., firm has a tough sell in store. Verizon charges $29.99 for unlimited data on smartphones, while T-Mobile adds $30.

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?

By Rob Pegoraro  | January 18, 2011; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Mobile, Sprint, Telecom  
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Comments

And the hits just keep on coming. Discounts have been taken off additional lines on family plans (23%). Lastest bill stated that they are adding a service fee of 99 cents per line now this. Heres my take a 37% increase equaling $1,485.00 over the life of my 2 year contract.
I think the company excutives that came up with this idea deserve a raise or maybe a new corporate jet.

Posted by: jv79 | January 18, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Sprint wants to avoid the disaster that befell ATT -- the clogged lines, dropped calls and slowed speeds that damaged its reputation due to unlimited downloading by heavy iPhone users.

Posted by: NCFan | January 18, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I hear concern for saving money and getting the best value; that is always the right idea, and I can not like price going up unless I am getting something for my money. In this case, I think Sprint is giving a good value for your money- consider this:

Taking a smart phone that it is capable of an enjoyable data experience: flash capable, capacitive touch WVGA or better, HD camera, large storage capacity, and good operating system. Then, consider your network capability of where you live. Sprint and Verizon have the most 4G right now, T-Mobile third, and AT&T none. Some living in rural areas will have to consider this factor more than others living in say L.A. or N.Y.

Lastly consider price-

Unlimited minutes, data, and text:

Sprint $109.99

Verizon 129.98 but limited to 5000 text/mo per www.verizonwireless.com and no pricing for iphone 4 has been set yet.

Tmobile $99.99

AT&T $124.99 but limited to 2GB, "If 2 GB is exceeded, an additional 1 GB is automatically provided at a rate of $10 for each additional 1 GB." per www.wireless.att.com


Ok, so arguably if you if you live in a location where one carrier has 4G and another does not, then you this can add serious decision to your choice.

Also consider this.....

Sprint has unlimited cell minutes to any cell phone in the U.S. from it's network, unlimited text and data, unlimited after 7pm and on weekends, and 450 min per mo for daytime, weekday use to landlines with the $10 prem. data fee for $79.99 and no carrier has this. This is truley the best value if you can survive on 450 min, their are 900 min for $99, and family plans from $149.99 including the premium data fee and all with unlimited to any cell from Sprint's network.

Lastly, don't want to pay $10 premium data per mo, well simple: either don't buy a 4G phone, and buy your phone before Jan 30.

Posted by: davidornm | January 18, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

@davidornm: The new fee applies even if you choose a 3G smartphone

Posted by: littleroot | January 18, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Just more of the "same old Sprint". They bait you in with low price and then jack it up. Clearly their market research shows that most consumers are too dumb to switch to competition when they do so. They also seem to believe that their data services and access to professional sports keeps many customers hostage. Too bad none of the carriers meet the 4G standards, even though they aggressively market their networks in that way.

Posted by: murrayh | January 18, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

The $10 is not just for 4g it is for UNLIMITED 3g. Other carriers have 2GB to 5GB limits on their data plans and then either throttle your data bandwith speeds or cut off your data use. I wish that the fee was not imposed on ALL customers. However, I also feel that even with the $10 fee that allows UNLIMITED data (3g or 4g), it is still the best deal and cheapest of all the wireless carriers for Unlimited data. Unlimited data used to be offered by every carrier and now it is slowly being phased out. I feel that carriers that PHASE OUT Unlimited data will cause their customers to FLEE to other wireless carriers that CAN OFFER Unlimited data plans. It is my opinion that in the near future, Any wireless carrier that offers a reasonable priced unlimited data plan for a Smartphone or Tablet will likely be #1, be the Largest wireless carrier and have the most wireless subscribers.

Posted by: osifervic | January 18, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I compared Sprint, AT&T and VZ for my wireless family last summer, when smartphones/iphones were under consideration. Even with the EVO 4G surcharge, Sprint came out cheaper per month. Really, the $ total and the network are the proper points of evaluation for each person, and YMMV. I like the fact that if my kids go nuts on data or texts, I'm not getting a surprise in my bill. And my bill is simple and clear, compared to the prior company's. Now as to value, there is no added value at present for the $10 fee, as 4G and 3G were giving me the same speed yesterday in my 4G city. I don't consider a three figure monthly phone bill as a "value" at all.

Posted by: markjcga | January 19, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

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