Third-largest US carrier Sprint Nextel (S) yesterday unveiled a ground-breaking unlimited calling plan for its mobile customers, which enables cell phones users to make or receive unlimited calls from the company’s network to any other US carrier network any time using any handset for free.

Sprint’s customers can now enjoy unlimited calls to any of the nation’s more than 250 million wireless customers, thereby eliminating voice minutes. However, the plan does not include roaming on another carrier’s network.

The new service plan (called “Any Mobile Anytime”) comes as an extension to Sprint’s “Everything Data” plan. The Any Mobile Anytime plan represents a $30 discount to Sprint’s renowned $99.99 monthly “Simply Everything” unlimited plan (including unlimited landline), targeted for the postpaid segment. However, Simply Everything restricts unlimited calling within the company’s own networks.

Sprint’s move to offer this new service plan represents a response to AT&T’s (T) recently announced service “A-List” (debuts on Sept. 20, 2009) that allows individual plan customers and family plan customers to call 5 and 10 numbers, respectively, for free regardless of landline or mobile.

Similar plans such as Friends & Family by Verizon (VZ) and myFaves by Deutsche Telecom’s (DT) T-Mobile USA are already in the market. Any Mobile Anytime is the least expensive unlimited plan among the top-tier US carrier offerings.

Sprint is currently struggling with subscriber retention problem as it continues to lose customers to its larger competitors due to intense pricing pressure and technical problems associated with integrating its CDMA and iDEN wireless networks.

The company’s high-value contract customer base continues to shrink with nearly 2.25 million customers lost in the first half of 2009. This is in contrast to consistent healthy gains in the prepaid segment boosted by the $50 unlimited plan.

By offering Any Mobile Anytime, Sprint hopes to lure back some of the contract customers it has lost in the recent quarters. Moving forward, this new plan is expected to provide the company an important means to contain postpaid churn while creating opportunity to attract new customers.

Any Mobile Anytime will also effectively support Sprint’s new smartphone devices such as Palm Pixi and HTC Hero that heavily depends on unlimited access. However, it remains to be seen if Sprint’s new move ignites a fresh price-war in the increasingly competitive US wireless market as other Tier-1 carriers attempt to launch their parity plans.
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