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Sprint Follows Rivals By Complicating Its Unlimited Mobile Data Plans

Aaron Pressman

Following its three larger rivals, Sprint on Thursday unveiled a new, more complicated lineup of unlimited mobile data plans.

With the revamp, Sprint goes from having one plan starting at $60 per month to four different options costing $50 to $70 a month. The main price hike hits customers who want to watch streaming video at HD quality instead of being reduced to DVD quality.

A new “unlimited plus” plan most resembles the carrier’s current one, with subscribers allowed to use up to 15 GB monthly before experiencing slowed download speeds, receiving HD-quality streaming video, and getting free Hulu and Tidal subscriptions. It costs $70 for one line, rising to $180 for four lines.

But Sprint also added a “limited time” promotion that cuts the price to $50 to $100 per month for customers who buy a new phone or bring their own device.

A cheaper “unlimited basic” plan, starting at $60 for one line and up to $140 for four lines, slows downloads to 3G speeds after just 500 MB, downgrades streaming to DVD-quality, and offers just a Hulu subscription, but no Tidal account.

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Also, following some of its rivals, Sprint introduced discounted plans for customers 55 and older and for military families. The military plan is comparable to the unlimited basic plan but costs only $100 for four lines. The over 55 plan has fewer features but costs only $50 for one line and $70 for two lines.

Although consumers no longer get cut off or have to pay expensive overage charges when they run through a monthly data allowance, they face an increasing array of restrictions and conditions on all but the most expensive unlimited plans, including slowed download speeds. Sprint’s four-page press release announcing the new plans included 11 footnotes, signaling just how complicated they are.

Sprint’s latest moves follow new unlimited plans introduced by Verizon and AT&T last month. More than a year ago, T-Mobile complicated its line up and last year hiked the price of one of its options.

Sprint, which had been offering the cheapest unlimited plans, faces an uncertain future. The carrier has agreed to merge with T-Mobile, but regulators could block the combination. Meanwhile, Sprint’s shares have dropped 33% over the past year.

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