NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Corp Sw.N on Thursday offered its customers unlimited data services for as long as they keep their account with the No. 3 U.S. operator, as it looks to steal customers away from bigger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc (T.N).
The announcement came just a day after SoftBank Corp (9984.T) closed its $21.6 billion purchase of 78 percent of Sprint and two days after Sprint closed its buyout of Clearwire Corp, which has a vast amount of wireless airwaves licenses.
The guarantee of unlimited talk, texting and data services adds a new wrinkle from Sprint, which already offers unlimited data services for a flat monthly fee, while its rivals charge consumers depending on the amount of data they use.
Sprint Chief Executive Dan Hesse told Reuters the new guarantee would help reassure customers who were worried about leaving AT&T or Verizon Wireless and then having Sprint eventually pull the offer of unlimited services.
“Our research has shown that is a big issue for us in attracting AT&T and Verizon customers,” he said, adding that the guarantee “clearly differentiates” Sprint from its rivals.
Hesse, who has been battling customer losses at Sprint since he took on the top job in December 2007, said he needed to complete the Clearwire deal to know that Sprint would have “the capacity to be able to offer an unlimited guarantee for life.”
Without Clearwire’s airwaves Hesse said that in a few years Sprint “would have run out of gas.”
He declined to comment on any more changes Sprint and SoftBank will put in place now that the deals are closed. SoftBank waged a bitter battle with Dish Network (DISH.O) to buy both Sprint and Clearwire.
Analysts have said they expected the SoftBank and Clearwire deal to amp up competition in the U.S. wireless market as Japan’s SoftBank is famous for aggressive pricing in its home market.
Sprint also made some small pricing tweaks on Thursday to simplify family plans and service plans for individual smartphone users.
Under its latest offerings Sprint said that its smartphone customers would pay $240 less per year than customers of market leader Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) and $120 less per year than No. 2 U.S. operator AT&T and smaller rival T-Mobile US TMUS.N.
Shares in Sprint, which changed its name from Sprint Nextel to Sprint Corp after the deal, will trade on a “when issued” basis until Friday when it will begin trading again under the S ticker symbol.
Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Chris Reese