Sprint Customers Offered Unlimited Mobile to Mobile Calls

Sprint is rolling out an "Any Mobile, Anytime" feature that lets its customers make unlimited calls from their mobile devices to any other U.S. carriers' mobile devices. Despite the high-profile launch of the Palm Pre and the Sept. 9 release of its smaller sibling, the Palm Pixi, Sprint has seen itself bleeding revenue throughout 2009, reporting a second-quarter net loss of more than a quarter-billion dollars.

Sprint announced its "Any Mobile, Anytime" feature, allowing unlimited calls between its customers' mobile devices and other U.S. carriers' mobile devices, on Sept. 10.

The "Any Mobile, Anytime" feature, married to the company's Everything Data plan, also includes unlimited messaging and data. Those plans start at $69.99.

"We don't think our customers want to have to keep track of or only talk to friends, colleagues or family members who make the same choices they do," Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, said in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Sprint has claimed in the past that their mobile broadband network (inclusive of data roaming) reaches some 21 million people, and that it has three times the coverage of AT&T's current 3G network. Yet throughout 2009, the company has also seen itself plunged into hard financial straits.

In the second quarter of 2009, Sprint reported a net loss of more than a quarter-billion dollars - $384 million - and a diluted loss per share of 13 cents. Customer numbers fell from 49.1 million in the first quarter of 2009 to 48.8 million at the close of the second, despite robust early returns for the Palm Pre smartphone.

In addition, Sprint could find itself challenged heavily by AT&T's announced plans to boost speeds for its 3G network in six U.S. cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and Charlotte, N.C., by the end of 2009. According to AT&T, the upgraded network platform will perform at theoretical speeds of 7.2M bps, although it is unlikely that actual customers could achieve such speeds in real life.

AT&T plans on accompanying this rollout with six new smartphones compatible with this HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) 7.2 technology, which could further challenge momentum of the Palm Pre.

During a July 29 earnings call, Dan Hesse told investors and analysts that the Palm Pre was the most successful phone launch in the carrier's history, one that possibly yanked market share away from the rollout of the iPhone 3GS.

"When there's a new device launched, say the iPhone in particular, you'll see a blip for a period of time, in increased churn," Hesse said at the time. "I don't want to lead you to believe that there's no impact at all from the iPhone - it is a successful device. But I think we've mitigated the impact significantly with a strong device lineup."

However, the intervening months have seen Palm and Sprint take several steps to achieve further market penetration with their device. On Sept. 9, Palm launched the smaller Palm Pixi smartphone, which operates Palm's WebOS software, and slashed the price of the original Pre. Despite the Palm Pre's focus on business users, the diminutive Palm Pixi is aimed squarely at the consumer market, with features such as Yahoo and LinkedIn integration to Palm Synergy.

Despite having occupied pole position for years in the mobile-device market, Palm has found itself beaten in market share over the past few years by Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion with its BlackBerry line. Palm's attempt at a comeback has revolved not only around hardware, but also the WebOS, which seeks to battle directly against other mobile operating systems including Google Android, the iPhone OS and Microsoft Windows Mobile.