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Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA Use Unlimited Data to Stage Comeback

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Over half of US smartphone owners who say they have unlimited data showed interest in plans that allow customization, speed guarantees, or sharing of data on family plans for multiple devices, according to Strategy Analytics.

Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA are betting on unlimited data as a way to win market share against their larger rivals. Banking on their superior LTE network coverage to help gain and retain customers, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are sweetening their tiered data plans with unlimited voice and text bundles, no extra fees for tethering, as well as data share across multiple devices.

Yet the real story may be that consumers are looking for more control and personalization: in the US, UK, and China, 60 percent or more of smartphone owners show interest in monitoring data use in real-time on their device while over half say they would like to be able to customize their plans.

According to Susan Welsh de Grimaldo , Director, Mobile Broadband Opportunities at Strategy Anaytics, "The operator who is first to market with new user-friendly capabilities for personalizing mobile plans, including premium options for guaranteed speed, may win in this next wave of mobile life. Today's mobile phone owners indicate they are ready for new levels of customization in their mobile plans -- my mobile, my way -- with an easy tool to track usage so that they remain in control."

Phil Kendall , Director, Wireless Operator Strategies (WOS) adds, "Wireless networks get congested, and today's tiered data plans do not adequately address peak traffic challenges. While operators with relatively empty new 4G networks may be able to sustain unlimited data as a value proposition for a short time, they may not be targeting the real pain points among consumers or networks."

In the UK, a new round of competition for smartphone subscribers is also heating up: Three UK and T-Mobile (UK) are betting on unlimited data, while EE is using its 4G LTE speed advantage with unlimited voice/text and free tethering. Vodafone's response is a "Vodafone Data Test Drive" with three months of unlimited data to help consumers explore their smartphone's capabilities and learn their true data needs on a tiered, capped plan.

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Tags: USA