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That Sprint unlimited data plan? It might see a price hike

The company may get rid of the unlimited data plan altogether in the future, says the CEO of Sprint.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure hints that the unlimited plan may one day be eliminated. Troy Thomas/Sprint

Sprint's unlimited data plan may get pricier in the near future.

Sprint may raise prices for unlimited data in the latter part of the year, CEO Marcelo Claure said in an interview with Kansas City, Mo.-based TV station KSHB.

"For the next few months, unlimited continues," he said. "We might increase prices towards the latter part of the year."

Sprint offers an unlimited plan for $85 a month, and a special $50 plan for iPhone users. More ominously for data hogs on Sprint's network: he warned that the company might eliminate unlimited data in the future. A spokesman declined to add anything beyond Claure's comments.

The unlimited data plan -- "Unlimited Everything" -- was the marquee offering by former CEO Dan Hesse, who attempted to shake up the industry with an all-you-can-eat offering that simplified how much you paid each month. Even as Sprint struggled with poor network coverage, slow download speeds and customer defections, the offer was able to pique the interest of a certain segment of heavy data users.

But with Sprint focused on improving its network coverage and the cost of carrying all of those streaming videos, music and photos mounting, the company is taking a closer look at unlimited data. That Sprint, which has long stood by its unlimited offer, is considering eliminating the option speaks to the mounting costs of maintaining and upgrading a wireless network.

Sprint says no more data throttling. Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Sprint said on Thursday that it would stop throttling, or slowing down the connection, of its heaviest data users subscribed to an unlimited plan. The company made the move a day after the Federal Communications Commission fined AT&T $100 million because it throttled its grandfathered unlimited data subscribers, which the agency felt meant those plans were "falsely labeled."

Claure is focused more on network quality. At Recode's Code conference in Ranchos Palos Verde, Calif, he boasted that Sprint would have the No. 1 or No. 2 network in the nation, suggesting his coverage would potentially surpass AT&T and Verizon Wireless. He also warned that unlimited data plans couldn't last forever, although he said it still made financial sense.

Sprint's unlimited plan was popular at a time when AT&T and Verizon Wireless moved away from unlimited data, instead convincing its customers to sign up for tiered plans with a set amount of data for individuals or families. If you went over that limit, you would have to pay an overage fee. Sprint came in and offered ease of mind with the wireless bill.

But Sprint isn't alone in unlimited anymore. T-Mobile also offers an unlimited data plan for $80 a month.