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Sprint’s new plan offers all-you-can-stream HD video for $20 per month extra

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Sometimes, after a long day spent traversing treacherous mountain passes in the Catskills, navigating the Colorado River’s rough-and-tumble Class V rapids, or just playing a highly competitive tournament of backyard cornhole, all you want to do is kick back and stream a few HD vids.

But if you were an early adopter of Sprint’s new Unlimited Freedom plans, that was an impossible proposition: clips were whittled down indiscriminately to standard definition. On Friday, though, the carrier debuted a solution: Unlimited Freedom Premium, a “top-tier” data plan that unlocks high definition streaming on Unlimited Freedom plans for $20 more per month.

“[In] tests with actual consumers, most indicated the difference between HD and optimized video was practically indistinguishable,” said Sprint in a press release. “[Unlimited Freedom Premium is] for those customers who want to watch video, listen to music, and stream games in higher resolution on their mobile devices, and for those wireless users who would like to stream movies and games on their HD TV.”

Here’s how it breaks down: $80 a month for a single line or $140 for two nets you the ability to stream high-definition video — that is to say, movies, television shows, and web clips at resolutions 1080p (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) and above — over Sprint’s 4G LTE towers, ostensibly as much as you wish. Unlimited calls and texts are a pack-in, predictably, as is the other, obvious benefit conferred by Unlimited Freedom: unlimited music streaming, multiplayer gaming, file transfers, and any other data-dependent task that comes to mind.

There’s another facet to Unlimited Freedom Premium: faster music streaming and online gaming. Sprint, perhaps in response to criticism of its Unlimited Freedom Plans’ throttling of games and tunes, is substantially boosting caps on Unlimited Freedom Premium. The upcharge grants 1.2Mbps (from 500Kbps) for audio streams and 8Mbps (from 2Mbps) for multiplayer gaming.

Unlimited Freedom Premium is an a la carte offering, Sprint said. Customers on a family plan needn’t upgrade symmetrically in order to take advantage — if little Timmy desperately can’t stand to watch “The Wiggles” in standard def, for example, Dad only has to shell out for one Premium line instead of two, three, four, or more.

Sprint is offering a little something extra to sweeten the pot, too: for a limited time, new and existing subscribers can “test drive” Unlimited Freedom Premium when they upgrade to Unlimited Freedom. That promo expires on October 31.

The carrier’s beefed-up unlimited data offering comes on the heels of T-Mobile’s new unlimited One plan. It’s tit for tat, essentially: while T-Mobile’s plan doesn’t impose data speed restrictions on categories of traffic like audio and gaming, it leverages a monthly HD video fee of $25 per month. A single-line plan on the Magenta carrier, then, winds up totaling $95 per month versus the Unlimited Freedom Premium’s $80.

In terms of the competition, AT&T offers an unlimited tier, but only to subscribers of its DirecTV and U-Verse internet plans — it starts at $150 a month. And Verizon doesn’t offer unlimited data.

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