Sprint to Keep Unlimited Data, At Least for Now

Sprint is the only of the U.S. Big 4 wireless carriers to still have and unlimited, unthrottled smartphone data plan, and despite the fact it's widely expected to get access to the iPhone for the first time this year, it's going to continue that. But where have we heard that before (Verizon, before the CDMA iPhone 4) and how long did that last (not long)?

Sprint Chief Technology Officer Stephen Bye confirmed that when addressing attendees of GigaOm's Mobilize conference in San Francisco on Monday.

Tiering and throttling complicates things for end users, but is the path that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have chosen to use for their new subscribers (older subscribers may have been grandfathered into unlimited plans; T-Mobile advertises unlimited but throttles users, after a certain amount of data is used).

The complexity is made still more confusing by moves such as AT&T's, where it will throttle the heaviest among its unlimited users. AT&T obviously wants grandfathered, unlimited users to move out of those plans and into tiered data plans. The company said that if a user wants unlimited AND unthrottled data, he or she needs to opt into a tiered data plan, because with overage charges, it's still essentially unlimited, but there will be no throttling.

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Of course, if you chose to go "unlimited" with overage charges, you are going to experience "unlimited fees," as well.

Although Bye said that Sprint wants to give users what they want, which is free phones, simple plans, and unlimited data, it's not clear how long Sprint can sustain that. The nation's No. 3 carrier will soon have the iPhone. Remember that although Verizon began iPhone sales with its unlimited data plans firmly in place, it was only a few months before those went the way of the dodo.