Sprint to stick with unlimited data, likely even for an iPhone on LTE

CEO's comments seem to go further than company's official stance

Sprint plans to stick with unlimited data plans for its smartphones, and that apparently applies even if the next iPhone runs over 4G LTE, which pumps data to user much faster than 3G, Sprint officials said.

CEO Dan Hesse on Tuesday told CNET: "I'm not anticipating the unlimited plan would change by that point [when the next iPhone ships]. That's our distinctive differentiator."

Asked to confirm what Hesse said and whether he meant unlimited data would apply to an LTE-ready iPhone, a Sprint spokeswoman told Computerworld via email: "I cannot speak to features on a future device. The devices we have announced on LTE -- including HTC EVO 4G LTE, Galaxy Nexus and LG Viper 4G LTE -- will offer unlimited data."

In a separate email, the spokewoman said something closer to what Hesse was quoted as saying: "At this time, Sprint has no intention of moving away from our commitment to unlimited data for new and existing customers. This would apply to any of our devices, including iPhone."

Hesse's comments show he believes unlimited data has helped his company. "Frankly, it's a marriage made in heaven," he told CNET. "We're clearly attracting customers from competitors."

First quarter results posted Wednesday show Sprint activated 1.5 million iPhones in the quarter, with 44% coming from customers new to the carrier. Still, the Sprint churn rate (loss of customers) rose to 2%, an increase from 1.78% in the first quarter of 2011.

Sprint plans to offer 4G LTE service in six cities in mid-year, after some of its LTE smartphones are sold. Those phones will revert to 3G when LTE is unavailable.

While it isn't guaranteed that the next iPhone will run on LTE, the new iPad does and many analysts say it would be natural for Apple to include LTE on the next iPhone since several Android phones already do.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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