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Sprint unveils low-cost mobile broadband plans

The carrier introduces lower-priced options for 3G/4G mobile broadband that pack in more data bang for the buck. Its smartphone data plans still remain unlimited.

Though tiny, Sprint's MiFi 4082 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot packs lots of features and offers good performance.
Sprint's MiFi 4082 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot now comes with a more affordable data plan. Dong Ngo/CNET

Sprint Nextel introduced several lower cost mobile broadband plans today in an effort to push data services beyond the smartphone.

The company offers four new data plans to power tablets, mobile hot spot cards, USB cards, and connected laptops or Netbooks. The prices range between $19.99 and $79.99. The new plans don't affect Sprint's smartphone data offer, which remains unlimited.

While much of the attention has been on smartphone data plans, the wireless carriers are also seeing growth from so-called connected devices. By bringing down the prices of its monthly plans, Sprint is hoping more consumers will consider buying tablets or mobile hot spots.

Sprint is looking to push tablets in particular. It's offering a $19.99-a-month plan that allows for 1 gigabyte of data. The other options include a $34.99 plan for 3 gigabytes, $49.99 for 6 gigabytes, and $79.99 for 12 gigabytes of data.

Previously, Sprint's only options consisted of a $59.99 plan for 5 gigabytes and $89.99 for 10 gigabytes.

The data includes the use of both its 3G network, as well as the less available 4G WiMax network, which is run by Clearwire.

In comparison, Verizon offers a $50 plan for 5 gigabytes of data, and $80 for 10 gigabytes. AT&T offers a similar $50-5-gigabyte plan.

Sprint said its comparable $49.99 offering allows customers to see roughly 6,700 more Web pages, 2,000 more photos, or 67 extra YouTube videos a month.

Sprint's rivals have seen a stronger adoption of connected devices, largely driven by the Apple iPad, which comes with 3G radios. While Sprint sells the iPhone now, it doesn't yet offer the iPad. So far, its other tablet offerings, including the HTC Evo View 4G, have been met with little excitement.

The company has seen modest success with its laptop and mobile hot spot cards, particularly ones that can run on both the 3G and 4G network. The cheaper plans could be a catalyst for higher interest.