T-Mobile cutting smartphone rates, could undercut Sprint

T-Mobile USA fired a price war salvo Wednesday with lowered rates on a range of smartphone plans that would seem to undercut Sprint Nextel rates.

Comparing the plans of different wireless carriers is always troublesome because they so rarely are designed in the same way. And they never operate on the same networks. But T-Mobile’s latest rates, to take effect Sunday, would seem to challenge Sprint’s standing as the national brand with the least expensive plans.

For instance, for a single line with unlimited talk and text, T-Mobile customers will soon pay $60, compared with the company’s current rate of $80. For a family plan with two phones with unlimited text and talk, you’ll pay $100, compared with $140 now.

By comparison, Sprint charges $100 a month for a smartphone plan with unlimited text, talk and data, or $80 a month for unlimited data and texting with 450 talk minutes.

Still, there are key differences between the plans. Both would give access to the carriers’ 3G and 4G networks. But under the T-Mobile plan, after a smartphone user consumed two gigabytes of data, upload and download speeds would be slowed to 2G speeds (the difference between 256 kilobits a second and 56 kilobits per second). Sprint’s plan doesn’t throttle speeds based on consumption.

The rate change fits neatly with an industry trend that has seen the costs for talk minutes, texts and data continue to drop — just not as fast as consumer demand for them has grown.


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