The third- and fourth-largest US wireless carriers have both unveiled new unlimited data plans in the past week after federal regulators, eager to maintain four competitive domestic wireless companies, put the brakes on Sprint's much-discussed acquisition of T-Mobile US.
On Monday, Sprint announced a new family data plans offering 20 gigabytes of data for up to 10 lines that include unlimited calling and texting for $100 a month. In a statement, Sprint's new chief executive Marcelo Claure said these new plans represent "the best value to data-hungry consumers. Period."
Anxious to focus on internal growth and bring on new customers – something Sprint's previous chief executive, Dan Hesse, failed repeatedly to do – Sprint says it will buy out families' existing contracts with other carriers for up to $350.
That announcement also marked the end of Sprint's "Framily Plans," which let customers sign up with friends and family members, in favor of the more common industry practice of packaged family plans.
Now, T-Mobile, which likes to represent itself as a kind of renegade player on the wireless market, is responding with its own plan to woo consumers away from the competition: If current T-Mobile customers convince someone they know to leave a competing carrier and join T-Mobile, then both the current and the new customer will receive unlimited LTE data for a full year. And existing customers who already have unlimited LTE will instead receive a $10 credit every month for twelve months. T-Mobile customers can begin registering their referrals Aug. 29
"It continues to amaze me to see the old carriers failing to listen to their customers − or reward them for their loyalty," Mr. Legere says in the statement. "That arrogance and indifference has defined the U.S. wireless industry for too long. We’re changing all that. In fact, this entire Un-carrier consumer movement is built on the simple act of listening to customers."
The self-described "Uncarrier," T-Mobile began offering plans with no annual service contracts in March 2013. The company offers one gigabyte of data for a base plan of $50 per month and unlimited data for $80 per month.
A company that was until recently being courted by Sprint, and even by the French upstart wireless carrier Iliad, revealed in its second-quarter earnings report this year that it had added 1.5 million new customers, making it the fifth consecutive quarter to add more than a million customers.
Sprint, still in the process of transitioning its data network to the latest 4G LTE wireless technology, has a series of caveats in its latest cost-cutting plan. For example, many of its offers are available on a limited-time basis. Families only pay $100 per month through 2015. Otherwise, a plan with four lines costs $160 per month and a plan with 10 lines costs $250 per month.