Both Sprint(s s) and T-Mobile have dissed the decision of their larger competitors TO move to shared data plans, claiming consumers would rather have big data buckets or unlimited use available through their individual plans. But apparently that logic doesn’t apply to business customers.
T-Mobile has said it plans to offer shared data pools to its business customers, and on Friday Sprint officially began selling buckets of communal data to its small business customers. The plans are only available through its business sales channels and support a maximum of 30 LTE smartphones, tablets and data modems. Like AT&T(s t) and Verizon(s vz)(s vod), Sprint is charging a monthly per-device fee, for instance $40 for a smartphone with unlimited talk and text included. The pricing of the data plans themselves start at $140 a month for 20 GB split between up to 10 devices. At the high end is a 60 GB / $320 plan supporting up 30 lines.
Sprint is also offering a set of shared plans targeting data-only tablets and modems — an interesting use case brought on by the BYOD trend. As employees make their personal smartphones their business handsets, companies may opt to make the tablet or a wirelessly connected laptop the only mobile work tool available to their employees. Sprint is charging $10 a month to connect a tablet, $20 to connect a modem, and offering shared data plans starting at $60 for 10 GB and topping out at 60 GB for $320.
Since last summer Sprint’s mantra has been “Say no to sharing data,” and it has launched advertising and web campaigns that attempted to show how consumers could save money by adopting its individual unlimited plans. Both Sprint and T-Mobile have maintained that not only do subscribers get a better deal with their unlimited plans, but also THAT the lack of A cap makes everything so much simpler.
Why the change of heart when it comes to business plans then? Likely, Sprint and T-Mobile are realizing that the same arguments that work with consumers aren’t going to work with businesses. Small companies value simplicity as well, but they’re willing to take on some complexity if it means saving some cash each month. And on account with 20 or 30 devices, those savings could be substantial.
Buying two unlimited plans at $30 a month for unlimited data might make sense for a family of two, but paying $500 to $600 a month to attach 20 smartphones to the unlimited spigot makes little sense if you can buy an enormous bucket of gigabytes for half the cost. Keep in mind, as well, that neither T-Mobile or Sprint offer unlimited plans for tablets or modems, so any business owner connecting anything besides smartphones would have had to manage caps under the old pricing plans anyway.
I don’t think Sprint and T-Mobile are swallowing the data-sharing pill just yet. For them unlimited is still a key differentiator in the consumer market, but they are likely very concerned that Verizon and AT&T will steal their business customers with these new shared pricing models. That has forced them to respond in kind.
In Sprint’s case at least, it isn’t just responding, it’s attacking. Sprint’s new plans undercut Verizon’s recently launched small business tiers. For instance, Verizon is charging $375 a month for 50 GB of shared data between, while Sprint is offering 60 GB for $350. Sprint and T-Mobile may be forced to play the data share game, but it looks like they’re going to maintain their reputations for offering cheaper service.