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Sprint launches new unlimited data plan that costs just $60 a month

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August 21, 2014

The wireless industry is getting extremely competitive in the United States, and now Sprint is making sure it stays that way. If anything, Sprint wants to undercut just about anybody when it comes to unlimited data plans.

Proof in point-- the wireless carrier announced a new unlimited data plan for smartphone users that costs just $60 a month.

It's part of Sprint's new CEO Marcelo Claure's effort to reverse the fortunes of the ailing company.

Competitor T-Mobile offers an unlimited data plan for $80 a month, while industry leaders Verizon and AT&T don't offer unlimited plans at all. But there's a chance that that could change soon, and we'll probably find out soon.

"People know Sprint for unlimited," Claure said in a statement. "We have long been the leader in offering mobile subscribers unlimited data and that leadership continues today."

However, the new plan isn't available with discounted phones, and current Sprint customers can't switch to the $60 per month rate until they're eligible for an upgrade.

Sprint also said that it just finished overhauling its family pricing earlier this week. Under its newly revised plans, a family with four phone lines would pay $160 per month to share 20 GB of data.

Four lines with the same amount of data are advertised online by Sprint and AT&T at $310 per month. At T-Mobile, the plan would cost $180.

Sprint has also followed T-Mobile's lead in offering to reimburse customers for the costs of switching from other wireless carriers, and waiving the requirement that customers sign a long-term service contract.

Sprint brought in Claure earlier this month to lead its turnaround effort after reportedly abandoning plans to merge with Sprint because of the difficulty in getting the deal approved by antitrust regulators.

That merger would have created a combined entity with a subscriber count to rival that of Sprint and AT&T.

Claure, who formerly headed wireless equipment and service company Brightstar, pledged following his hiring to make Sprint more aggressive in the marketplace, and he's wasted little time in following through.

But Sprint faces a very difficult road ahead, however. Though its speeds are improving, it still has by far the slowest 4G network of its rivals, and user complaints are still coming in.

It was rated the worst cell phone service in the U.S. by Consumer Reports in 2013, and also came up in fourth in a new ranking this week from market research firm RootMetrics.

On top of all that, Sprint also continues to hemorrhage money and lose customers. T-Mobile took another jab at Sprint earlier this week with a new promotion, offering free upgrades to unlimited data plans for existing T-Mobile customers who sign up their friends.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere mocked Sprint's plan on Twitter. "If your friend is on Train S going 2 MPH and you are on Train T going 2000 MPH, tell your friend to f'in transfer!" Legere wrote.

In other mobile news

AT&T said today that it's offering a $200 discount on Apple iPads for anyone buying a full price iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C, ahead of next month's expected announcement of the *new* iPhone.

If you have the feeling that AT&T wants to liquidate its old inventory of iPhones, you'd be right. We don't know how many iPhones the wireless carrier has in stock but it's probably a whole lot more than we would have guessed.

With a new iPhone 6 expected to be announced on September 9 and in stores by the end of September, it looks like the new promotion, which is available only in AT&T owned and operated stores, is designed to sell off inventory of the older model devices.

To be sure, the promotion could also be used to move older iPads as well, as Apple is also expected to announce a new full-sized and mini-version of the popular tablet in time for the holidays.

Additionally, the new promotion may also have another motive as well-- to boost the company's overall data subscriptions.

As more and more consumers already own smartphones, AT&T and other wireless providers are trying to encourage customers to add other Internet-connected devices to their own data plans in order to increase revenue.

AT&T's and Verizon's data sharing plans are all designed to make adding such devices easy and affordable, while generating more revenue for the carriers.

Adding a tablet to a share plan on AT&T costs an additional $10 a month. Of course, with an additional device connected to the data plan, subscribers may have to boost their overall data plan.

For example, two subscribers sharing a 4 GB plan for $70 a month, plus device connection fees, may need to boost their plan to 6 GB and pay $80 per month, plus the additional $10 fee to connect a tablet to the plan.

In all, a typical AT&T subscriber would likely be paying an additional $20 a month to AT&T, in such a scenario.

While the deal does offer a nice discount for most consumers, interested shoppers should be aware of the fine print...

For instance, the promotion is only available to customers buying a new iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C through the company's early upgrade program.

That means that customers will have to pay full price for the device or finance it over 24 months. At full price, the iPhone 5S starts at $650 for a 16 GB version and the iPhone 5C starts at $550 for the 16 GB version.

Financing the iPhone 5S with the option to upgrade after eighteen months will cost $27.09 per month for 24 months.

And financing an iPhone 5C with the 18 month upgrade option will cost $22.92 per month for 24 months.

The other condition is that the offer is for iPads that include AT&T cellular access. The basic cost of the cellular enabled iPads generally run $100 more than iPads that only include a Wi-Fi radio. As the old saying goes, there's no free lunch.

Don't forget that AT&T is also requiring that subscribers sign up for a two-year data plan with the purchased iPad on top of that.

The newer, more expensive iPads will be discounted by $200, which means that a 16 GB iPad Air, which usually sells for $630 will now sell for $430.

To sweeten the deal even more for consumers interested in the older iPad Mini with a non-Retina display, AT&T is also offering a deeper discount.

That device will sell for $200 compared to its usual price tag of $430. Again, the offer requires a two-year data contract for any iPad.

For consumers interested in buying a new iPhone and an iPad from AT&T and for those who don't mind purchasing older models, this could be a good deal, but like we said, make sure you understand the fine print.

In other mobile news

Apple and Samsung said late yesterday that they have reached an agreement on most of their patent wars, a new development that should put an end to the unhealthy atmosphere the two technology companies have been immersed in the last several years.

The two firms have agreed to completely abandon patent lawsuits outside the United States, and also to end legal disputes in countries such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and Britain.

"Overall, this agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts," a joint press release said.

Apple and Samsung have been engaged in several lawsuits since 2011. Many of the disputes involved the design of smartphones, a lucrative sector that the two companies dominate.

Apple had accused Samsung of multiple patent infringements, including the hardware design of the iPhone. For its part, Samsung alleged that all generations of the iPhone and iPad infringe on its own patents.

But the childish tit-for-tat actions were fairly complex, and the stakes were very high. A victory in court could force the loser to pull its products from the market, on top of all the bad publicity.

But while there are signs that tensions are easing, the two companies aren't completely giving up their fight.

Several lawsuits in the United States where Apple has so far triumphed in two cases will continue. Apple has been awarded about $1 billion in those cases, far less than the company was asking.

As expected, Samsung is appealing the decisions. Samsung still faces significant legal challenges over patents.

Earlier this week, Microsoft filed a lawsuit against Samsung, claiming the South Korean company owes it money as part of a patent-sharing agreement the two companies negotiated in 2011. Samsung hasn't responded as of yet.

In other mobile news

Time Warner and Comcast have said they will soon boost their broadband speeds in Kansas City, which happens to be the first town in the U.S. that Google Fiber will be rolled out later this year.

They added that this will happen without any price increase. Kansas City is one of the few U.S. markets where Comcast and Time Warner have real broadband competition beyond phone company DSL.

The mid-west metropolis is the home of Google's first Fiber broadband project, and was announced last year.

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Google launched the new service in 2012, offering citizens gigabit speeds with plans to increase bandwidth up to 10 Gbps.

Understandably, the service has become a hot commodity, with cities offering Google concessions such as discounts on network access to launch Fiber.

Google didn't return a request for comment on the news. That the cable giants are upgrading their services in the face of increased competition is ammunition for opponents of the planned Comcast-Time Warner merger.

The two companies have conceded that they have little overlap in their coverage and rarely compete against one another.

A 2013 study by the FCC found that about 19 percent of Americans have only one provider offering 10 Mbps or faster broadband and just 48 percent are able to choose from three or more broadband wireless carriers.

For those that own condos or that rent apartments with restrictions on drilling holes or laying cable, the choices can be even more limited.

Today's decision could also provide fresh ammunition for net neutrality advocates, who point to the uncertain state of broadband competition in the United States as an indicator that protections are needed to prevent service providers from throttling traffic and implementing extra charges.

Overall, cable companies have various arguments up their sleeves for why broadband availability is lagging in the U.S.

With a growing but dispersed population and wide stretches of uninhabited land, laying cables to bring broadband service to remote parts of the country can be very costly, they claim, and investments may not translate to big financial returns in areas with few potential customers.

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Source: Sprint Wireless.

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