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Sprint slashes shared data plan prices

It offers four lines and 20GB of data for about $160 a month, beats other carriers

As promised last week by its new CEO, Sprint announced late Monday it will lower its shared data plans to prices below those offered by other national carriers starting on Friday.

The Sprint Family Share Pack will cost $160 a month for four lines and 20GB of data, Sprint said. Verizon Wireless and AT&T both charge $160 for less than half as much data -- 10 GB. T-Mobile offers a family plan through September that costs $100 a month for four lines and 10 GB of data.

Also, Sprint is offering for a limited time a plan that allows a family with up to 10 lines to get 20GB of shared data plus unlimited talk and text for $100 a month. The deal is good through 2015.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the family plans will be augmented by new prices for individual customers later in the week. "Simply put, we are offering the best deal on shared data," he said in a statement. "We want customers to think twice before choosing another wireless carrier."

The price cuts were promised in Claure's first meeting with employees last Thursday. "When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price," he said at the time.

Much of the downward pressure on pricing has come in the past year from T-Mobile, and T-Mobile CEO John Legere has issued a steady stream of sarcastic tweets directed at Sprint for problems in rolling out its LTE network.

Sprint's recent "Framily" plan came under special criticism from many quarters for being complex and uncompetitive, costing $160 a month for 4GB of data. Framily also came with overage charges, although Sprint seems to have changed that approach by setting up the new Share Pack to either limit, vary or reduce a user's speeds on the network when needed to "improve the experience for others," Sprint said in a footnote to its Share Pack plan.

As T-Mobile has already done, Sprint also announced late on Monday that it will buy out a family's contract for a limited time when the family switches from another carrier to Sprint. That offer could be worth up to $350.

"We are so certain that this is the best [data sharing] value on wireless today that for any customer who wants to switch to our new Family Share Pack, we will reimburse them for the cost to end their contract with another carrier," Claure said in a statement.

Independent analyst Jeff Kagan said the Family Share Pack "may be the first of many big changes at the wireless carrier meant to jump-start growth. It looks like Claure is wasting no time getting to work transforming Sprint."

Kagan said that Sprint needs to "keep making news" with things like price cuts to make a long-term difference, given its loss of 220,000 subscribers in the second quarter and five years of revenue declines.

The Share Pack plan will have less impact on AT&T and Verizon than on T-Mobile, Kagan predicted.

Read more about wireless networking in Computerworld's Wireless Networking Topic Center.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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