How Sprint Is Planning to Turn Things Around

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sprint (S) has announced a new, lower-cost family service plan to begin helping it to regain market share versus rivals Verizon (VZ) , AT&T Wireless (T) and especially T-Mobile US (TMUS) . 

Calling the move "A New Day For Data," Sprint now offers new shared high-speed data plans "at the same or lower price as compared to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless." Sprint shares were down sharply in Tuesday trading, off 4.2% to $5.39.

As part of the first moves by newly installed CEO Marcelo Claure, the Sprint Family Share Pack now offers double the high-speed shareable data. Customers can get up to four lines and 20 GB worth of data for $160, compared to 10 GB of data for the same price from AT&T or Verizon. The company did not highlight T-Mobile in its new pricing competition. 

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To launch the new campaign, Sprint is offering a limited-time promotion of 20 GB of shared data, unlimited talk and text to as many as ten phone lines for only $100 a month through the end of 2015. As an added incentive, customers will get an additional 2 GB per line for up to ten lines.

TheStreet's Brittany Umar has more on Sprint's latest move to gain subscribers:


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"While we believe this is the most attractive plan in the market for customers with a high need for data, we still see issues related to Sprint's service/network," S&P Capital IQ's John Zino wrote in a research note, following the announcement. "We expect more discounted offerings from Sprint in the coming days/weeks related to the individual, with a focus on lower prices and more data."

Earlier this year, Masayoshi Son, CEO of Sprint's parent company, Japan-based SoftBank Corp, warned he would begin a "massive price war" to bring attention and customers back to Sprint.

In recent weeks, the competition has announced lowering pricing too. Verizon cut rates for its unlimited talk and text plans, while T-Mobile further expanded its family plans which have been challenging Sprint for the number three carrier title. In the past year, T-Mobile's aggressive "Uncarrier" pricing plans forced the other U.S. carriers to lower their monthly fees and offer better deals.

Sprint, the number three U.S. cellular provider, has been having trouble, recently, keeping subscribers. According to the most recent numbers, Sprint lost 181,000 net postpaid subscribers in the last quarter. A year ago, before T-Mobile began the Uncarrier campaign, Sprint had reported a net gain of nearly 200,000 in the same quarter. Sprint tried to solve its problems by negotiating to buy T-Mobile. After months of trying, when the deal finally fell through then Sprint CEO Dan Hesse stepped down.

In a phone conversation, Zino said new the new service plans, in addition to the upcoming release of Apple phones, could be a "big deal" for Sprint in the coming months.

And, Sprint now has other problems to contend with. According to a new survey measuring cellular network quality Sprint has dropped to fourth place behind its rivals. RootMetrics reports Verizon is still the top U.S. carrier when it comes to speed and reliability with second place AT&T beginning to narrow the gap. T-Mobile has moved into third place with its strong showing in major urban regions. Sprint, in fourth place, is currently in the process of upgrading its 4G service across the country.

But, analyst Gerard Hallaren of Janco Partners believes Sprint is now in position to turn things around. In addition to having a new boss who knows his way around marketing hardware (such as offering $50 Apple (AAPL) iPad minis with the purchase of an iPhone 5s or 5c) Sprint is also in the process of building out its next-generation "Spark" higher-speed data network which, according to Hallaren should "blister the competition" beginning next year.

Sprint is hosting an event in New York later tonight, where it may announce new hardware as well. The company is expected to announce the first new handsets from Sharp to be introduced in the United States in years.

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-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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