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Sprint Rings Up Flat Weekend Rate

Sprint Corp. is now offering flat-rate pricing for weekend long-distance calls, a move analysts say could shake-up telephone billing.

The Sprint Unlimited plan allows customers to pay $25 per month for all long-distance calls made between 12:01 a.m. on Saturdays and 11:59 p.m. on Sundays. Customers on the plan pay 10 cents per minute weekdays.

The plan, which went into effect Thursday, targets frequent long-distance callers, said Tim Kelly, vice president of marketing for Sprint's consumer services group. A customer would have to make about four hours of long-distance calls during a month of weekends to see a savings, he said.

Brian Adamik, a telecommunications analyst for The Yankee Group, says Sprint's plan "leapfrogs the competition."

"I think it is a significant move," Adamik said. "It is a precedent-setting consumer brand repositioning."

Sprint, the nation's third-largest long-distance phone company, is walking away from a battle with AT&T and MCI over per-minute billing, Adamik says.

Sprint's weekend pricing plan is similar to how Internet providers bill their customers, usually with a flat-rate, monthly fee for unlimited online access.

Jeffrey Kagan, an Atlanta-based telecommunications analyst, said that the pricing "sounds like the all-you-can-eat, $20 a month Internet plans that are widespread."

Kagan said that unlimited calling plans had been tried years ago by small phone companies. But those companies didn't have the network capacity to handle the large volume of calls they were receiving and the networks got tied up, blocking customers from actually making calls.

Sprint won't have that problem, Kagan says.

"This is an issue of a phone company that prepares for a flood of business calls during the week, and has a lot of capacity left on the weekend," he said. "They're trying to generate more income on the weekend."

Sprint, based in Westwood, Kan., is a global communications company with $15 billion in annual revenues and 16 million business and residential customers.

Written By Bradley Brooks

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