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Sprint axes roaming, distance charges

Sprint PCS, the United States' fourth-largest carrier, is the last of the top four to offer subscriptions without extra charges for long-distance or roaming.

Sprint PCS on Monday became the last of the four major U.S. cell phone carriers to offer new calling plans for consumers that don't include extra charges for roaming or long-distance service.

The PCS Free & Clear America plans cost between $55 to $125 a month, similar to the rates charged for plans offered by Sprint PCS competitors Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless.

PCS Free & Clear America is for consumers, Sprint PCS said. The company introduced a similar plan for business customers last year.

The new plans are a mixed blessing for most U.S. carriers. On one hand, eliminating calling distinctions such as long distance or roaming (an extra charge for using a competitor's phone network to complete a call) will keep customers on board and attract new ones, Sprint PCS President Len Lauer said of Sprint's new efforts.

But most carriers still offer plans that charge extra for long-distance, and these new limitless plans will likely eat into that revenue, said wireless analyst Joe Laszlo of Jupiter Research.