Sprint is killing its Framily discount plan and launching new pricing that tries to attract customers by doubling the data that rival carriers offer smartphone users.
New Chief Executive Marcelo Claure announced the shift Monday.
“There’s no longer going to be Framily as of this Friday,” Claure said to employees, who met the news with a mixture of oohs and applause.
Framily was Sprint’s effort to turn customers into recruiters — wooing consumers with what some saw as odd TV commercials featuring a talking hamster as a father and other strange Framily members.
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Subscribers with Framily accounts get bigger discounts by adding more customers to their own accounts. It largely didn’t work, but Sprint will continue to honor the Framily discounts customers now have.
Employees cheered when Claure unveiled Sprint’s new sales pitch, a shared data plan called Sprint Family Share Pack. It looks much like the shared data plans at larger rivals AT&T and Verizon but with a twist.
“We’re going to double the high-speed data at the same or lower price than AT&T or Verizon,” Claure said.
Sprint’s double-the-data theme applies to its new everyday pricing that mimics the big carriers’ plans and a new promotion that lines up in many ways with one now running at Bellevue-based T-Mobile, though with more data and more lines.
Sprint’s promotional plan allows up to 10 lines on an account for $100 a month and the lines all share 20 gigabytes of data. Each line also gets 2 gigabytes of data of its own.
T-Mobile’s promotion provides 2.5 gigabytes of data for each of four lines, which totals 10 gigabytes, at $100 a month.
Data has become the battlegrounds for carriers, which generally allow unlimited phone minutes and texts with their plans. Smartphones consume data when their owners stream video or music, download apps or perform other popular functions.
Both companies are running the promotions until the end of September. Plans will revert to normal pricing plans at the start of 2016.
Markets have been waiting for Sprint to ignite a price war. Claure also made clear this was Sprint’s first, but not last, move to win customers.
The company did not address its unlimited-data offerings, which have been available at additional cost for each device that gets unlimited data. A spokeswoman said to stay tuned on the unlimited front, that the latest announcements addressed family plans.
Sprint’s new pricing plans are aimed largely at luring customers from other carriers. It also is offering to “pretty much reimburse” customers who switch from other carriers’ plans and incur an early-termination fee, Claure said.
The appeal to other carriers’ customers is why Sprint shaped its new plans to look similar to the deals consumers see at other carriers.
Framily’s downfall, the company concluded, was that its odd-man-out structure made it difficult for consumers to compare it to what they already had or saw at other companies.
Sprint’s new everyday-pricing plan uses shared data for all the devices on a family’s account, as do Verizon’s and AT&T’s shared plans. Sprint is giving customers twice as much data, or 20 gigabytes, to share.
Sprint was expected to make a price-cutting move because its data network lags that of its rivals. The company also had blamed recent customer losses on disruptions to phone calls caused by an extensive upgrade of its network equipment.
Crews continue to add faster data speeds to the network but Claure held out the new pricing plan as a challenge to Sprint’s sales staff.
“I want to make sure from the sales people that we stop the excuses, that we stop blaming the network. We’re giving you the tools to succeed,” Claure said. “There’s also no excuse why we shouldn’t bring (to Sprint) every single customer that we see now.”