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Sprint Launches First Salvo In Price War To Retake Share

Overland Park, Kan. — Sprint unleashed another weapon in its battle to win back subscribers, launching new shared-data plans said to offer double the high-speed data at the same or lower price than its three national rivals.

The announcement, made late Monday, came one week into the tenure of new Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, who was previously chairman/CEO of global cellular distributor Brightstar. He also sits on Sprint’s board.

The new plans become available Aug. 22, and more new plans are coming. “We have more news coming later this week about plans for individuals,” said Claure. “We want customers to think twice before choosing another wireless carrier.”

Sprint, the No. 3 carrier by subscriber base, has lost money every year since 2007, and its subscriber base has been shrinking because of network disruptions caused by a massive network overhaul that is now largely complete.

With much of the network overhaul behind it, Sprint is taking the next step to win back market share with aggressive pricing plans that one analyst, Jeff Kagan, called a “quick and bold” move. The plans represent “the kind of move that Sprint needs to make at this point to attract the attention of customers,” he said.

“It looks like we are starting to see a new approach to the market from Sprint,” Kagan continued. “We will have to wait a quarter or so to see what kind of progress they are making with this new approach and who they are taking customers from, but this is a good start.”

The first plan to reignite Sprint growth is called the Sprint Family Share Pack, which was described in a convoluted, complex way in a Sprint statement. The Share Pack includes multiple plans with shared data ranging from 600MB to 60GB. All lines get unlimited talk and text.

The cost of shared-data buckets range from $20 for 600MB up to 60GB for $225 for up to 10 phones. A 20GB data bucket costs $100 per month.

Once a family chooses a data bucket, pricing for unlimited talk and text costs another $25 per line per month for unsubsidized phones if the phones’ data buckets range from 600MB to 16GB. The $25 per line fee drops to $15 per line if the user chooses 20GB to 60GB data buckets. Customers who opt for subsidized contract phones pay $40 per line per month. Unsubsidized phones can be purchased under a Sprint Easy Pay installment plan.

For a limited time from Aug. 22 through Sept. 30, consumers switching to Sprint get 20GB of shareable data and unlimited talk and text for four phones for a total of $100 per month through 2015. For this promotion, Sprint drops the $15/month access per-phone access fee for unlimited talk and text. As an added bonus, customers who opt for the 20GB bucket get an additional 2GB per line for up to 10 lines for a total of 40GB through 2015.

For a family of four, that’s a savings of $60 per month over AT&T’s and Verizon’s current pricing through 2015, Sprint said. It also represents twice the amount of data as Verizon and more than double the high-speed data of AT&T and T-Mobile, the company said.

In addition, for a limited time, Sprint will buy out the contracts of a family that switches and pay up to $350 via a Visa Prepaid Card worth up to $350. The switching offer will be available at Sprint stores and through Sprint telesales, but the offer applies only to unsubsidized phones.

Unsubsidized tablets can share in the data buckets for $10/month, and unsubsidized mobile broadband devices can be added at $20/month.