Sprint’s “Unlimited For Life” Hinged on Clearwire Deal

Fri, 07/12/2013 - 9:43am
Ben Munson

Just a day after closing its merger with SoftBank, Sprint unveiled some new unlimited talk, text and data plans. Unlimited data’s a big deal if only because the two biggest wireless providers in the U.S., AT&T and Verizon, completely shun the idea. But the timing of the plan caused speculation that the move was the first of many disruptive waves stemming from SoftBank entering the U.S. market. Not exactly.

Laura Lisec, director of public relations at Sprint, told us the timing of the SoftBank transaction closure was more of a coincidence. Clearwire was the deal that really paved the way for Sprint’s new unlimited plans to go public.

Lisec explained that Sprint had been working on the plans for months now but that Sprint needed to make sure the Clearwire buyout was a done deal before it could begin offering the new plans. She put it plainly, saying Sprint needed Clearwire’s spectrum to make it work.

On Monday, Sprint announced it had completed its acquisition of Clearwire and effectively gained access to the vast amount of spectrum leases Clearwire holds in the 2.5 GHz frequency range. Those 2.5 GHz airwaves had already been factored into Sprint’s upcoming tri-band LTE offering, which will begin with Wi-Fi hotspots and move to phones from Samsung and LG by the end of the year.

Access to the 2.5 GHz will give Sprint’s LTE aspirations a big capacity boost in metro areas and could open things up for users to really take advantage of unlimited data.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes next now that SoftBank is at the helm. But New Sprint’s first move—that Lisec said it boldly worded intentionally to emphasize Sprint’s commitment to unlimited—is a big reminder of how vital Clearwire’s spectrum will be down the road.


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