Sprint's 'Family' Data Plan Is Cheapest Option for SMBs

Sprint's latest "family" wireless data plan features 12GB of high speed data that can be shared across as many as 10 lines for $90 a month. It's a great option for small- and medium-size businesses, but Sprint's network generally isn't as fast or reliable as its competitors' networks.

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For some reason, wireless carriers that offer shared wireless data plans like to refer to them as "family plans." Maybe it's because they'd rather sell something pricier to businesses that want shared plans. Be that as it may, Sprint has a new family plan that could be a good buy for many small- or medium-sized businesses. In fact, Sprint's $90, 12GB data plan that can be shared across as many as 10 separate lines appears to be the best offer available, at least for the moment.

In comparison, T-Mobile offers a 2.5GB data plan for $100 that can be shared across as many as four lines, and both Verizon and AT&T offer $160, 10GB plans that can be shared over four lines.

There are definitely some caveats — Sprint's network, although it's improving, is still weak in many areas, and other carriers have better deals on international roaming and text — but if high wireless costs are burdening your small business, this offer is worth a look. (Hat tip to Sprint's PR folks, who wrote a press release that actually discloses features of competitors' data plans that Sprint doesn't match.)

The $90 offer also includes significant savings on access charges in addition to cheaper data. Sprint reduced the data access charge on the $90 "Family Share Pack" plan from $25 per handset to $15. If customers switch to Sprint from another carrier, the company will waive the access charge for handsets, tablets and mobile broadband devices on 12GB or higher data allowances, up to 10 lines for one year.

Sprint will also pay $350 per line if you switch from another carrier, to cover the early termination fees (ETF) that may apply. If you don't have an ETF, it's simply money in your pocket — well, it's money on a prepaid credit card, but it's still a nice bonus.

The downside: Sprint's network in general is not as fast or reliable as the Verizon or AT&T networks. It has improved in recent days, though, and in its most recent survey RootMetrics rated Sprint's network a bit better than T-Mobile's. In fact, RootMetrics said Sprint's network was the most improved of the four major carriers — and it certainly had lots of room for improvement.

RootMetrics does a good job with its testing, but network performance from city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood, varies greatly. I always suggest that people who are thinking of signing up with a new carrier test reception at work, at home, or wherever they're likely to use their phones most frequently. One way to do this is to find a friend who already uses that carrier.

T-Mobile offers a comparable plan with unlimited international data and text, while AT&T and Verizon offer unlimited texts to international numbers, along with some free cloud storage. You won't get those features from Sprint.

Sprint's offer is only available until March 12, so if you're interested you should act fast.

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