Sprint has been in trouble for years. Up until recently, the outlook for Sprint seemed bleak. Each quarter we heard reports of increasing net losses and the continued bleeding of customers to rivals AT&T or Verizon. Couple that with the failure of its 4G Wi-Max network and called off partnership with LightSquared, and it looked like Sprint was a prime candidate to become the next T-Mobile. It seemed that Sprint perhaps may be T-Mobile in the respect that somebody would want to buy them, but the government wouldn’t let it happen.
Sprint took a big gamble when it paid $20 billion to Apple to secure the rights to carry the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. The gamble seemed to have worked in the short-term, with Sprint having its best single-day sales in the history of the company the day the iPhone launched. Sprint recently decided to kill off its 4G Wi-Max network and move towards adopting LTE as its 4G network. Sprint has already confirmed that the Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio markets on targeted for a 4G by the middle of 2012. To compliment this burgeoning 4G LTE network, Sprint has secured the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and newly announced LG Viper.
According to Engadget, Sprint has confirmed that it will continue to offer unlimited data for its 4G LTE customers. Sprint now offers unlimited data on all of its Everything plans. In a mobile world now full of tiered data plans, and limited unlimited data plans, Sprint has positioned itself very well to offer something no other carrier is willing to offer. Add that Sprint’s plans are cheaper than Verizon and AT&T’s, and you have some very strong leverage in the market.
Could this be the offering that saves Sprint? That depends on two things. First, Sprint needs to make sure that the unlimited data they are offering is first widely available, and reliable. We are all excited to see Sprint keeping true to their unlimited offering of data, but what good is unlimited LTE data if only a handful of customers have it? Sprint will need to work extra hard to expand its 4G LTE network rapidly, and not at a snail’s pace like AT&T. Then they need to make sure that their network is reliable enough to stand up when faced with the flood of new customers coming for the promise of unlimited LTE data.
The other factor in saving Sprint with its unlimited LTE data plans is something Sprint has already set itself up for. When the iPhone 5 launches this year with LTE, as many analysts are predicting, Sprint may have its golden ticket back to relevancy. While Android devices are selling very well, frankly nothing makes a splash like the iPhone. If there’s one thing iPhone users cling to with dear life, it is their unlimited data plans. The millions of AT&T iPhone users who still have the unlimited data plan will finally have a place to take their unlimited data plan freedom without compromising their experience or data speeds. That is, of course, if Sprint has their network on par, or ahead of, AT&T’s LTE offering when the iPhone 5 launches.
So if I were Dan Hesse and Sprint, I’d be putting all my resources into building out my network in time for the iPhone 5. If I were Verizon or AT&T, I’d start worrying.