Sprint posted its latest quarterly numbers this morning and they clearly came away happy about the new customers that were added. Good for them. However, during the call to discuss the quarter and the near feature ahead, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure confirmed something that we’ve long-feared: price increases are coming to data plans when 5G gets here.
Sprint 5G rollout in 2019
Claure spent quite a bit of time discussing Sprint’s 5G plans, which currently include launching 5G in their 2.5GHz spectrum over the first half of 2019. Sprint’s CEO said specifically, that they are “working with Qualcomm and network and device manufacturers in order to launch the first truly mobile [5G] network in the United States by the first half of 2019.” He also mentioned the fact that they have an agreement with Qualcomm to get 5G support in a chipset toward the end of 2018, as well as one with a Korean manufacturer (Samsung, LG) to have a phone ready by early 2019.
That would put them towards the front of the pack, since they want to launch 5G-ready devices around the same time. Remember, T-Mobile is also targeting a 2019 kickoff, with full nationwide 5G coverage in 2020. AT&T is launching something to do with 5G this year, while Verizon hasn’t announced its 5G wireless plans yet. Sprint’s 5G network may not have to “compromise” like others, because they are able to “deliver super wide channels of more than 100MHz,” Claure said.
5G means price increases
While discussing 5G, though, Claure announced that his company has a “lot of room to increase” prices once 5G gets here. He admitted that they will continue to be a price leader with 4G, but that their 5G network will offer fiber-like speeds and so he sees no reason for them to undercut Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile in price. He noted that those other carriers will have a difficult time doing so, because of their current prices, adding that Sprint is in a great position to “charge for the blazing fast speeds.”
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile haven’t hinted at this happening, as far as I know, but it almost seems like a guarantee that Sprint won’t be the only carrier to increase data prices with 5G. When 4G LTE rolled around, I’m sure you can recall the great per-GB shuffling that swept through the industry and the original end to unlimited data. Per-GB prices were not exactly affordable out of the gate, but we’re now settling into pricing wars with LTE maturing.
After these carriers all make additional heavy investments in 5G, don’t expect them to do so without change. We still don’t fully know how our lives will react to 5G. We probably do know how those we pay for that connection will, though.