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Sprint unveils shared data plans for small businesses

As of Friday, the carrier now lets small businesses share a pool of data among as many as 30 mobile devices.

Samsung's Epic 4G Touch carried by Sprint.
Samsung's Epic 4G Touch carried by Sprint. CNET

Sprint now offers small-business customers a way to pool their mobile data usage and trim costs.

Introduced on Friday and available only until June 13, the new plans are geared for businesses with up to 30 mobile devices. The plans cover smartphones, tablets, mobile hot spots, and USB dongles and require the standard two-year contract.

The smartphone plan allocates 20GB of shared data across 10 devices, 40GB across 20 devices, or 60GB across 30 devices. The more data and devices, the higher the cost -- ranging from $139.99 through $349.99 per month. The first device must be a smartphone, with an extra charge tacked on for tablets, hot spots, and USB dongles. It's an additional $30 or $40 for unlimited talk and text.

The tablet plan covers anywhere from five to 30 devices, with the first device being a tablet. Prices range from $59.99 to $319.99 depending on the amount of data and number of devices.

The plans are available only through Sprint Business Direct, Care, or Telesales.

Sprint has been known for touting its unlimited data plans, and it will still keep its other business plans alive, including Business Advantage and Everything Business. But the new shared data plans mark a change for the company.

Sprint is the third major carrier to kick off a shared data plan for small businesses. Verizon introduced its version in January, while T-Mobile has had one in play since August, according to FierceWireless.

It wasn't long ago that Sprint was ridiculing the shared data plans of its rival carriers. In an ad campaign dubbed "Say No To Sharing" and "Say Yes To Sprint," the company created a commercial showing a family arguing over shared data expenses.

Caralene Robinson, a Sprint marketing vice president, said at the time that "the concept of sharing a monthly data allowance across a family or group of users increases the likelihood for a surprise monthly bill due to data overage charges."

Has the carrier changed its tune?

A Sprint spokesperson told CNET that the company offers online tools to business customers so they can view and manage their data usage.

"In addition, we only charge $0.015/MB in overage ($15/GB)," the spokesperson said. "And, unlike Verizon and AT&T who charge for the whole GB, Sprint only charges the business customer for what they use."

Updated 10:20 a.m. PT with comment from Sprint. Clarification, 10:45 a.m. PT: The headline has been changed to make clear that Sprint has introduced the plans for small businesses.