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Sprint jacks up the price for two new unlimited data plans

The golden days of bargains are over, my friends.

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Sprint pitchman Paul Marcarelli has two new unlimited data plans to talk up.  

Sprint

Sprint has joined the bandwagon of carriers redefining what an unlimited data plan should be. 

The nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier, awaiting a merger with No. 3 T-Mobile, on Thursday unveiled two unlimited data tiers to replace its single Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan. The first is a $60 Unlimited Basic plan, which costs the same as Unlimited Freedom, but reduces hotspot capabilities to 500 megabytes and reduces video streams to standard definition. It also comes with Hulu and 5 GB of roaming data in Canada and Mexico. The second line costs $40 and the subsequent lines costs $20 a piece per month.

Unlimited Plus starts at $70 a line and includes 1080p HD streaming, 15 GB of mobile hotspot access, Hulu, Tidal and 10 GB of data roaming in Canada and Mexico. A second line costs $50 and following lines are $30. 

At five lines, the Unlimited Basic costs $160, while the Plus plan costs $180, above the $100 promotion of its current Unlimited Freedom plan. The new plans take over on Friday.

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The price change signals that the high times for wireless bargain hunters are over. Sprint plans follow Verizon's introduction of a new, more expensive tier of service, as well as AT&T stripping out free HBO in favor of its Watch service in new plans. The carriers have been increasingly stretching the definition of an unlimited data plan -- once a single, simple all-you-can-eat option -- into something with a myriad of different adds-ons from hot spot capability to freebies like Hulu or AT&T Watch. (See the full breakdown of plans here.)

Sprint, like the other carriers, argue that people don't want a one-size-fits-all plan. 

"We know people want more and more out of their wireless plans," Sprint Chief Commercial Officer Dow Draper said in an interview on Wednesday. "They have different needs."

Sprint has been the most aggressive carrier in attracting new users. It held a promotion for unlimited service at $15 a month that lasted a week. It still offers a free year of wireless service to anyone willing to give Sprint a try. 

The new plans also have their own promotion. For an unspecified limited time, customers who bring their own phone or buy a phone outright will get $20 knocked off each line per month. 

With all of these options, is this too overwhelming for customers? Former Verizon guy and current Sprint pitchman Paul Marcarelli doesn't think so. 

"It doesn't have to be that complicated," he said. "We all want great service at best price. Sprint seems to get that."

Sprint is raising its prices amid improvement in its service in some markets, including recognition for improvement in things like voice calls. The company argues that its service is nearly as good despite a more affordable price, although the bigger carriers would debate that point. 

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