Sprint is the latest carrier to realize that words are meaningless, its unlimited plan was never going to be unlimited anyway, and it might as well run with it. Starting on Friday, Sprint will split its single unlimited data plan in two, creating two new plans with different data allotments and restrictions, both of which will still be referred to as “unlimited.”
The first plan, Unlimited Basic, is basically a worse version of Sprint’s existing $60-per-month Unlimited Freedom plan. It cuts LTE hot spot data from 10GB to just 500MB, and it’ll throttle video down to 480p, which it didn’t do in the past. It will still include a Hulu subscription (with commercials).
The second plan, Unlimited Plus, costs $70 per month, and it’s closer to the company’s original plan. It includes 15GB of LTE hot spot data and no video throttling. Sprint will also throw in a subscription to Hulu and Tidal (the entry-level version, without lossless audio). Both unlimited plans also include some amount of additional data for roaming in Mexico and Canada; hot spot speeds drop to 3G after hitting the limit.
For both plans, heavy data users will be subject to slowdowns when the network is congested. The situation is getting a bit better, though: previously, that would happen after 23GB of usage, but now, it’ll only happen after 50GB. That’s the same limit used by T-Mobile.
What really seems to be happening here is that Sprint wanted to raise the price on its unlimited plan, but instead of doing that, it introduced a new, slightly better and more expensive plan, while making the plan that sits at the $60 tier worse. If you’re already on the Unlimited Freedom plan, there only appears to be downgrades to switching over.
In an email, a Sprint spokesperson pointed to promotional pricing details that make the Plus plan cheaper. If you bring your own device or buy a new one, Sprint will knock the single-line price down to $50 per month, for as long as you remain on the plan. If you can get it for that price, it definitely is an upgrade (and a discount) over Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan; but unfortunately, it isn’t clear how long the promotion will last for.
Sprint is following in the footsteps of both AT&T and Verizon here, both of which have multiple unlimited plans. While offering multiple service plan options is a completely reasonable and sometimes consumer-friendly thing to do, the fact that all of these companies offer multiple plans with “unlimited” in the name speaks to just how confusing they can be. They all have limits, and it’s on you to figure out which ones you’ll run into.
Update July 12th, 11:45PM ET: Added details about promotional pricing on the Unlimited Plus plan.