Sprint and the Apple iPhone are “a marriage made in heaven,” according to Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, and the honeymoon period looks like it’s about to get extended: Hesse has said that the company’s unlimited data plan for the iPhone will continue to be available for the next generation of the device, even if it comes with 4G LTE.
Sprint is currently the only US carrier to offer an unlimited data plan for the iPhone, with both AT&T and Verizon only offering capped and tiered data plans since 2010 and 2011 respectively. Talking to CNet, Hesse said that he wasn’t “anticipating the unlimited plan would change” with the (as-yet-unannounced) release of the next gen iPhone, calling the unlimited data plan the company’s “distinctive differentiator” in the conflict between carriers. “We’re clearly attracting customers from our competitors,” he added, an idea reflected in the fact that, since October 2011 when Apple products first launched with the carrier, four in every ten new iPhones activated were users new to Sprint.
Officially, Sprint’s 4G LTE sites aren’t live yet. Although the Sprint 4G Rollout blog reports that the carrier is broadcasting LTE in approximately 200 sites across the US currently, the signals are in “testing” mode and blocked to customer use. But LTE phones (which can get speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G) have been available to buy from the company since earlier this month. According to Sprint, LTE will initially be available in six markets by mid-2012, but a more concrete date hasn’t been released.
The subject may be moot, considering that Apple hasn’t announced the release of a new iPhone yet. It’s similarly unknown whether the potential new iPhone would have 4G LTE capabilities, although that seems likely considering the most recent iPads are LTE-compatible. Hesse made a point of telling CNet that, despite his comments, he has no insider knowledge of a new iPhone nor its features. Still he pointed out that, should the phone offer 4G LTE, all carriers would have the ability. “Our expectation is that we will all get the same device at the same time,” he said. Of course, only one carrier will let users play without worrying about hitting their data limits too quickly.