Sprint is bracing for an influx of new and upgrading users in advance of its iPhone 5 release, as the company announces a cap on mobile hotspot data.
The Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier will cap its formerly unlimited $30 Mobile Hotspot plan to 5 gigabytes of data, beginning on October 2, according to official statements to website BGR. Leaked Sprint staff memos obtained by Sprintfeed state any overage will be charged five cents per megabyte. Only phones will be affected, leaving only tablet users with unlimited hotspot data.
The cap is the latest in a series of moves as the carrier gears up for the iPhone 5 release on its network. Sprint also recently bumped up its early termination fee and changed its return policy in anticipation for the handset’s arrival, which may bring more subscribers and heavier traffic to the carrier.
The arrival of the iPhone 5 on Sprint would be a coup for the mobile operator, which trails Verizon and AT&T in the mobile market. The combination of the popular device and Sprint’s unlimited data plans may attract new subscribers, at a time when the market may be maturing in terms of numbers of customers and other rivals shift to tiered data plans.
A boost in its subscriber base would better bolster Sprint as it faces the possibility of an AT&T merger with T-Mobile, which would drop Sprint into a distant last place among major U.S. carriers.
However, an influx of new subscribers may tax and strain Sprint’s network. Limiting hotspot data may be a preventative measure to manage traffic, and will initially affect a smaller subset of Sprint customers.
Known for its unlimited data offering in a market with shrinking options, Sprint may also be demonstrating its willingness to cut that competitive advantage if the iPhone 5 weighs down its network with increased traffic. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all switched to tiered data plans this summer to help manage overloaded networks, and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse says his company will do so as well, if the strain proves too great.
Neither Sprint nor Apple has confirmed the handset’s release with the carrier. Apple is set to unveil its next-generation device on October 4.
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