Sep. 23, 2011 at 11:38 AM ET
Come Oct. 2, people who use Sprint 3G or 4G smartphones as Wi-Fi hotspots for their computers will hit a monthly limit of 5 gigabytes. Even customers who currently have unlimited Mobile Hotspot plans will be migrated over, following a notice in their bill notice or a separately mailed postcard.
To be clear, this change doesn't affect the unlimited data used on the phone — it only affects people who use their phone to provide Internet access to other devices, like laptops and tablets. Still, Sprint has made a name for itself by having unlimited data plans — and for slamming competitors who did.
The $30-per-month plan is still competitive. AT&T has a $20 add-on that tops users off at a total of 4GB of data. (You still have to have a $25 2GB data plan to start with.) However, when you use up your 4GB on AT&T, you have to pay overage charges on your phone too. Verizon Wireless has a similar plan, totaling 4GB, for $50 per month. Meanwhile, T-Mobile charges $14.99 per month to turn your phone into a modem, and doesn't charge overage fees if you exceed your plans limit. The speed just drops once you've used up your gigabytes.
Sprint confirmed the plan change news following a leaked memo that appeared on the SprintFeed blog. Here's Sprint's own statement, which we received from the company via email:
Sprint continues to offer unlimited data for phones in its Everything Data and Simply Everything plans. Mobile Hotspot data usage is calculated independent of a customer's phone data usage. The mobile hotspot functionality on a phone enables other Wi-Fi enabled devices to connect to the Sprint network. Effective Oct. 2, Sprint is changing the optional $29.99 Mobile Hotspot add-on for phones. The new add-on has a monthly 5GB on-network data allowance for 3G or combined 3G/4G usage.
What's the takeaway? Unlimited data is a pipe dream, a concept that can't possibly sustain as America's hunger for cellular data exponentially grows. Even the carrier that preaches the gospel of unlimited can't keep this up for much longer.
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