August 19, 2014, 2:57 PM — Sprint's got a new CEO and the company is getting serious about catching up to its rivals with a new family data sharing plan. The carrier recently announced the Sprint Family Share Pack that lets you split 20GB of shared data on up to 10 lines for $100 per month. The new shared data deal will be available starting Friday, August 22.
The deal echoes the new promotional offering that former Sprint acquisition target T-Mobile announced in late July. T-Mobile's Simple Choice Family Plan offers a family of four 10GB of shared LTE data for $100. T-Mobile's deal also offers unlimited talk, text and 3G data, but is only taking new sign-ups until September 30, and the plan itself expires January 2, 2016. AT&T and Verizon offer similar shared data plans with various caveats that offer 10GB of shared data for up to four lines for $160.
Not to be outdone by T-Mobile with its new offering, Sprint is also kicking off the introduction of its shared data plan with a limited time offer. Anyone who signs up for the $100 Family Share Pack between Friday and September 30 will get unlimited talk and text, and 20GB shared data. You'll also get an extra 2GB of monthly data per line for up to 10 lines through the end of 2015.
Sprint is also hoping to convince people to switch carriers by offering a Visa Prepaid Card up to $350 to buy out a family contract on a competing network.
Caveats to consider
Before jumping ship, however, there are a few things to keep in mind with Sprint's deal. First, Sprint tacks on a monthly, per line access charge that can really escalate your monthly bill. Under standard pricing for the new family plan at the $100/20GB level, you pay $15 on smartphones, $10 on tablets, and $20 on mobile broadband devices. If you sign-up before September 30, Sprint waives the $15 monthly, per-line charge through 2015. It's not clear, however, if mobile broadband devices will be waived too or if you'll be paying $5 per month through 2015.
Those monthly access charges are only if you are paying full-price for your devices. If you sign-up for a two-year subscription with Sprint--an option only currently available to existing Sprint subscribers--those access charges rise to $40 per subsidized smartphone. Tablet and mobile broadband access fees remain the same.
New customers also have to bring their number with them from their current carrier and they have to buy new devices on Sprint's 24-month full-price payment plan, Sprint Easy Pay. Paying full-price for new devices will definitely jack up your overall monthly bill even if the cost is split across 24 months and the $15 per-line device fee for the family plan itself is waived.
None of this is out of the ordinary for phone plans, but it's worth knowing the true cost of what you're diving into--switching to Sprint to take advantage of this plan will definitely wind up costing you more than the advertised $100 per month.
Sprint Family Share Pack versus the competition
Extra payments aside, Sprint's deal sounds attractive since the company is offering double the data allotment that you get on AT&T and Verizon--and it's $60 cheaper.
But is it worth switching carriers for a deal that's only going to last 16 months plus two weeks? Maybe. First, remember that those per-line access charges will come back to bite you after the promotional deal ends.
If you're on T-Mobile's deal, you only get 2.5GB of data per line, compared to a pool of 20GB that can be shared any which way on Sprint. Plus T-Mobile's deal is gone as of 2016, while Sprint is at least keeping the data package after the unlimited talk and text deal expires.
As for AT&T and Verizon, it's a somewhat harder sell, since Sprint's deal may very well end up costing the same as its rivals after the unlimited talk and text add-on disappears. Plus, depending on your location, your data connection on Sprint may end up being largely on 3G instead of LTE, as Sprint is still building out its 4G network.
But Sprint will eventually finish its LTE project, it is offering more data than its rivals (a good thing since the going rate for overage charges appears to be $15 per gigabyte), and you can connect more devices than under the competing plans. As always, you'll want to do the homework for your specific situation, but Sprint's Family Share Pack looks enticing indeed--if you're aware of the device costs and reside in an area that gets LTE, that is.