Sprint may be axing its unlimited 4G plans for most devices but at least it's making sure you pay less for what you use.
Sprint today announced new rates for its 3G/4G data plans that were substantially lower than the rates it had previously offered. Users can now pay $20 a month for 1GB of 3G/4G data, $35 a month for 3GB, $50 a month for 6GB and $80 a month for 12GB. Sprint's previous 3G/4G plans offered $45 for 3GB, $60 for 6GB and $90 for 10GB.
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But while these new rates are indeed cheaper than the old rates they do come at the expense of unlimited 4G data usage for tablets, notebooks and laptops connected to the Web through mobile hotspot devices. Previously users were only limited by the amount of data they could use on Sprint's 3G EV-DO Rev. A network and could get unlimited data on Sprint's WiMax network. Now, however, users will be capped for all data they use regardless of what network it comes through. Sprint does still offer unlimited WiMax data plans for its smartphones, however.
The wireless industry has been moving away from all-you-can-eat data plans and toward tiered service plans for the past couple of years. AT&T got the ball rolling on wireless data caps last year when it announced it was dropping unlimited data plans for the iPhone in favor of plans that offered between 200MB and 2GB of data consumption per month. Verizon shortly followed suit by saying it would implement a similar pricing scheme for its 4G LTE services that launched commercially in December. Although Sprint has generally resisted the trend of capping data services for its smartphones, the company did make some concessions to the reality of 4G data consumption when it added a $10 charge to its unlimited WiMax data plans earlier this year.
Several research firms and companies have projected an explosion in wireless broadband consumption over the next few years, fueled mainly by 4G mobile data technologies such as WiMax and LTE that will allow for the streaming of high-definition video over the air. IT research firm Ovum, for instance, has projected that the number of mobile users subscribing to either 3G or 4G services will grow to 2 billion worldwide by 2014. Goldman Sachs' investment research arm, meanwhile, projected last month that wireless data revenues would surge by more than sixfold by the year 2020 and that wireless data revenues would nearly triple over the next two years alone.
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