After initially suggesting that it would not offer unlimited data plans, Sprint proudly announced that it would be the only carrier in the US that that will offer unlimited data plans for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. This will certainly have an impact on its major rivals Verizon and AT&T because neither of which offer unlimited data plans. Combine this with the fact that the iPhone is an immensely data-hungry gadget (as are the latest generation of smart phones) and you have a recipe for the most popular iPhone carrier in the US. Optimistically, this could even result in significant iPhone migrations from rivals’ networks, even though Sprint is not putting a lot of emphasis on the possibility.

As it stands, other iPhone service providers generally reduce speeds or impose additional charges when users exceed a pre-defined data limit. Now this was not generally a problem for the pre-smart phone era, when phones did not actually consume a lot of data but in these times, it has become a huge stumbling block on the growth and adoption of smart phones because so many of them are primarily designed to work seamlessly with online apps. Apple, Android and RIM all use cloud services, and this in turn increases the pressure on data networks. Service providers are generally loathed to allow unlimited data plans because it reduces the overall quality of the other services. Moreover, the only way around the problem is to upgrade the existing infrastructure, which is an extremely expensive option.

As smart phones become smarter and service providers remain stuck with existing infrastructure, consumers are beginning to feel the effects of limited data plans in the form of increased fees. Hence, Sprint’s announcement is surely going to give it an edge over its competitors. Sprint has three major monthly-unlimited data plans: $69.99 (unlimited text messaging + 450 minutes talk time), $89.99 (unlimited text messaging + 900 minutes talk time) and $99.99 (unlimited text messaging + unlimited minutes talk time). However, keep in mind that it does have a $10 per month “premium data add-on” fee for smart phones, which means those prices could all increase by $10.