While Sprint is still pushing on for unlimited data plans on phones and smartphones, the Now Network has unveiled lower pricing and more tiers to bring mobile broadband data within the reach of consumers who are eyeing tablets, netbooks, notebooks, and mobile hotspot routers with embedded 3G/4G chips on the carrier’s network. Sprint claims that the pricing would offer more data at lower price points than similar offerings from Verizon and AT&T.
Sprint’s new rate plans start at $19.99 for 1 GB of data and go up to $79.99 for 12 GB of data. While pricing is attractive, my complaint with Sprint’s pricing model is that the lower end plans may not work with certain types of data-only devices.
For instance, at $19.99, the 1 GB monthly plan is only compatible with tablets, and would not work with dedicated mobile hotspot devices nor with USB, modem cards, netbooks, or notebooks. The next plan up at $34.99, offering 3 GB of monthly data, is compatible with tablets and dedicated mobile hotspot devices, but not with USB modems, modem cards, netbooks, or notebooks. The $49.99 (6 GB) and $79.99 (12 GB) plans are the only two that are compatible with all types of data-only devices.
Users exceeding their data will be assessed an overage rate of $0.05 per MB of data while on Sprint’s network, or up to $0.25 per MB while roaming domestically.
While Sprint probably feels that it is protecting consumers from running out of data faster–you’re more likely to be using more data on a netbook versus a tablet–data should be just that: data. A tablet can consume most of the same types of content that a computer can, and most tablets come with a software option for tethering, allowing the tablet to use its modem to pull in data and share the data connection over WiFi to another WiFi-enabled device. In that scenario, the tablet could be a mobile hotspot as well, and would consume just as much data as that type of device. But on Sprint’s plan, to use a mobile hotspot, you’d need to subscribe at the $34.99 level, and not the cheaper $19.99 level.