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(s s) 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(s aapl) — 1.5 million last quarter — but I view them a little differently. Verizon(s vz)(s vod) 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.
I just don't understand why anyone would buy an iPhone 4S on a CDMA network like Sprint unless it's a rural coverage thing…
— Jim Baker (@XenCEO) April 25, 2012
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(s goog) 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.