With Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T) aggressively promoting their LTE plans, Sprint (NYSE:S) is fighting for attention despite lagging in the LTE race. The third largest carrier in the U.S. may not yet have an LTE network up and running, but that is not stopping it from announcing new LTE-capable smartphones and confirming that its unlimited data plans will apply to LTE phones as well.
Last week, Sprint launched the HTC 4G EVO and some of the device’s features seem pretty novel and interesting (HD Voice, Beats Audio, etc). As an answer to the low-cost LTE smartphones that rivals are launching, Sprint is also launching a $100 LTE phone, the LG Viper, for pre-order this week. Moreover, the company has also announced that it will extend its Everything Data unlimited data plan offering to smartphones that run on its LTE network as well for no additional charge. 
Sprint hopes to bridge huge gap with enticing offers
Sprint expects to launch its LTE network in ten cities by the mid-year and has announced only six of those initial markets. In comparison, Verizon has its LTE network up and running in about 196 markets across the U.S. and covers about 200 million Americans currently. AT&T is behind Verizon in terms of LTE coverage but it still covers about 75 million Americans and plans to add an equal number by the year-end.
Without a LTE network, it may seem puzzling that Sprint is still announcing smartphones that run on this non-existent network. However, the logic behind this seems to be that with competitors announcing some major smartphone releases such as the $100 Lumia 900, Sprint wants to keep its potential LTE subscribers from jumping on to rival networks by announcing its own line of smartphones.
3Verizon and AT&T do not offer unlimited plans currently, neither on 3G nor on 4G, due to network clogging issues and Sprint remains the only national carrier to have such a plan on 3G. Extending this offer to LTE, Sprint hopes, will help it ween away a few subscribers from rival carriers long enough so as to absorb them when its own LTE network is ready.
Since 4G speeds are much higher than 3G, users will tend to exceed their monthly quota pretty easily. Having the option of an unlimited plan will therefore hold much greater value to subscribers on LTE than they did on 3G. While the unlimited plans will keep a cap on the revenues that an average user will generate for Sprint, the company really doesn’t have much of an option left considering the huge gap in LTE coverage between itself and the two larger carriers.Notes:
- Sprint to keep smartphone data unlimited on LTE, for the same price as 3G, FierceWireless, April 3rd, 2012 [↩]