US operator Sprint is copying rivals by extending its customers the option of upgrading their smartphones every 12 months.
The operator has unveiled a new offer called Sprint One Up that allows customers to change handsets midway through a contract.
The service will be available to customers signed up to two-year contracts on rates starting from $65 a month.
“Sprint One Up is the best value in wireless,” said Sprint (Overland Park, KS, USA) chief executive Dan Hesse. “The new program gives Sprint customers the ability to upgrade every 12 months and unlimited talk, text and high-speed data for just $65.”
“And unlike other carriers, Sprint guarantees the unlimited talk, text and data for life,” added Hesse. “No other plan can compare.”
The move seems to have come in response to an easing of normal service terms instigated by smaller rival T-Mobile US (Bellevue, WA, USA), which allows customers to upgrade to pricier handsets under its new Jump plan.
Through Jump, customers can upgrade to a new device twice every 12 months once they have been members of the scheme for at least six months and for an additional monthly charge, although T-Mobile’s customers do not have to sign up to long-term contracts under the operator’s new Simple Choice tariffs.
Verizon Wireless (New York City, NY, USA) and AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) have both already responded with similar upgrade packages of their own.
Like T-Mobile, Sprint is under pressure to become a more effective competitor to AT&T and Verizon, which enjoy a dominant position in the country’s mobile-phone market.
The operator was recently the target of a $21.6 billion takeover by Japan’s SoftBank (Tokyo), which now controls 72% of Sprint’s stock, and also completed its own 100% takeover of mobile broadband player Clearwire (Bellevue, WA, USA), in which it previously held a 50.8% stake.
The transactions should boost the company’s position in the market for higher-speed 4G services, which have become a critical battleground in operators’ fight over higher-value subscribers.