Sprint’s Unlimited Data Plan May No Longer be Sustainable

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The increasing possibility that AT&T will acquire T-Mobile may make Sprint’s position somewhat untenable. Sprint is planning to expand its LTE (Long Term Evolution) network), but it’s still using less spectrum than its bigger rivals AT&T and Verizon have assigned. This fact leads experts to suspect that the Sprint’s unlimited data plan can put too much strain to its network and slow down the overall web browsing performance. The two bigger rivals have assigned 20 MHz of spectrum, compared with Sprint’s 10 MHz. Consequently, the company may need to reassign bandwidth used by other service to improve the performance of its LTE network.

Unlike Verizon and AT&T, which cap data usage to prevent network overload, Sprint is the only major carrier to continue offering unlimited data plan for a flat fee to smartphone users, including subscribers with iPhone. Sprint only has bare-bones implementation of LTE and if it doesn’t allocate enough headroom, the performance will eventually go down.  Due to its limited resources, the unlimited data plan is going to kill Sprint slowly unless the company can find an effective solution, including backing off from it. Sprint has used the unlimited data plan as a major selling point and the carrier is struggling to retain subscribers. Sprint allocated about $7 billion to build its LTE network, but unfortunately the company has no plan to expand its wireless spectrum to match the advanced technology. However Sprint explained that its 1.9GHz spectrum band is currently unused and it will be used for the LTE network. The company may also shut down iDen in 2013, which will free up the 800 MHz band.

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