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Summary:

Apple hasn’t confirmed an LTE version of its iPhone, but Sprint has confirmed that if such a device launches, the carrier would keep its unlimited data plans. That may be a big differentiating factor when at least 3 of 4 U.S. carriers offer LTE iPhones.

sprint-iphone

Sprint intends to keep offering unlimited data to its iPhone users, even after the operator rolls out its faster LTE network later this year. Sprint CEO, Dan Hesse, confirmed the plans to CNet on Wednesday, saying “I’m not anticipating the unlimited plan would change by that point. That’s our distinctive differentiator.”

My colleague, Kevin Fitchard wasn’t overly impressed by sales numbers for Sprint’s iPhone — 1.5 million last quarter — but I view them a little differently. Verizon has nearly twice customer base of Sprint and sold roughly double the number of iPhones last quarter: 3.2 million. Based on that, I’d say that Sprint’s iPhone sales are at least proportionally comparable to its main CDMA rival. Still, others wonder why someone would buy a Sprint iPhone at all.

My response to that was likely the same as Hesse’s would be: The unlimited data plan is a very likely factor, regardless of the slower 3G speeds. Jim Baker does raise a valid point on the speeds and responded back to me that most folks don’t hit their monthly caps anyway, so the “unlimited” benefit of Sprint’s plans is muted. Perhaps, but that may change as apps use more data and consumers turn to larger screened, high-resolution phones to stream video content.

Regardless of what Baker and I think, current and potential Sprint customers will rejoice over Hesse’s confirmation that unlimited plans for the iPhone will continue into the LTE era. In a conversation with Kevin Fitchard, he noted that this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Sprint will gain network efficiencies with LTE in lieu of CDMA. Even though consumers will use the network more, it will be better equipped to handle greater demand.

Based on a TechHog article from earlier this month, Sprint had already confirmed that unlimited LTE plans would be available for the LG Viper, an Android handset, but if there was any doubt on the iPhone plans, you can dismiss it. And if Apple does offer an LTE iPhone for Sprint — which could be tricky because of the frequencies Sprint plans to use for its network — all of the U.S. operators will be competing more directly on price. I suspect Sprint will sell an even greater share of iPhones as compared to AT&T and Verizon at that point.

  1. Recent reports from AT&T show that consumers are now beginning to hit the 2 and 3G limits. To think that consumers would always hold at a low data usage is ridiculous.

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  2. My friend just bought a sprint iPhone and the experience is horrible. The sprint network, in this case Oklahoma, is no where near modern speeds. Even using maps is a chore because of the slow transfer speeds. I’m severly disappointed by the speed. Even T-Mobile is quicker, though they don’t have iPhone. Sprint desperately needs to upgrade its network, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone join until they do.

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    1. Can’t really argue with you there. Sprint is still using EVDO for 3G, which at best might get you downloads of 2 Mbps; far less than HSPA+ from T-Mo or AT&T these days. Sprint is starting its LTE network rollout within the next few months, which will bring them up to par, but it’s going to take time for broad coverage.

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  3. more and more people are starting to use more data and may require more than 2gb per month so i believe there is a benefit in going with the unlimited data sprint plan

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