Sprint Netgear LTE Modem, Framily Plans Offer Perks for SMBs

Sprint, with recent offers, has made light overtures to SMBs. Businesses can now take advantage of Framily Plans and a new LTE modem.

Sprint, a network that's described itself as under construction, has been called (by others) a "pile of spectrum waiting to be turned into a capability." It recent days it made three announcements that include benefits for small-business customers, suggesting that it's doing all it can with what it has.

Most recent was the Feb. 21 introduction of the Netgear LTE Gateway 6100D, a fixed wireless router offering an alternative to fixed broadband options (or non-options, if you or your business is in a neighborhood with a single provider).

The 6100D modem can operate on three bands of spectrum, is said to be easy to install and combines 3G/4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). It can also take advantage of Sprint Spark—an "enhanced," extra-fast LTE technology—in areas where it's available. Currently, that means Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and parts of Texas (Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth) and Florida (Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale).

According to Sprint, customers with the 6100D can expect stronger in-building signals; "unprecedented data speeds when streaming video and transferring files; improved call quality and lag-free video chats; and 50 to 60M-bps peak speeds, with those figures rising over time.

A "true business-grade data solution," said Sprint, the 6100D includes four Gigabit Ethernet ports; mounting flexibility; always-on connectivity; secure WiFi access; a USB port for printer support and mass storage; remote management capabilities; and internal and external antennas for strong performance in "fringe areas."

The modem is priced at $199.99. Data plans start at $14.99 for 100MB of combined 3G/4G data and run up to 30GB of 3G/4G data for $109.99.

The second announcement was the offer of free WiFi Calling, a service that lets subscribers use an office, home or public WiFi network to place calls.

While Sprint has a good deal of spectrum, particularly thanks to its Clearwire acquisition, precious little of it is on the lower frequencies that excel at penetrating deep into buildings.

"It's not uncommon for customers to experience mobile network coverage issues within their home, apartment or office, due to building materials interfering with the Sprint network," Sprint said in a Feb. 21 blog post. "WiFi Calling is a solution that addresses these issues."

Unfortunately, the offer is for now limited to Sprint customers with a Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini or Galaxy Mega who install an over-the-air update. Over the next few weeks, owners of these devices will receive a notification alerting them that the update is available.

Sprint added that it plans to expand WiFi calling to "additional devices" in 2014.

Finally, on Feb. 20, Sprint announced that it's making its Framily Plan (a family plan that can include friends) available to business customers.

Framily Plans start at $55 a month for 1GB of data. For every person added to the plan, everyone's bill goes down by $5. Three people, for example, would each pay $45 a month; $25 a month is the lowest to which the offer dips. Everyone in the "Framily" receives his or her own bill and can customize their bills at will. Data can be bumped to 3G a month for an additional $10 or be unlimited for an extra $20.

(If Judy, say, wants the 3G of data, she can pay $55 a month, while Dan and Pete, the other members of the "Framily," pay $45 for 1GB.)

"The Sprint Framily Plan gives small-business owners the ability to achieve greater savings by inviting employees, business associates and others to join their Framily group," Sprint said in a statement. "Because each account can be billed separately, small-business owners can save without adding costs to their business."