Without a doubt, it's the 800 pound gorilla in the carrier realm: will Sprint follow AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless down the woeful tiered data route, laced with pain, confusion and general awfulness? We asked Sprint CEO Dan Hesse that very question today at Sprint's campus, and the answer wasn't exactly heartening. He stated that people are simply willing to pay a price premium (when it comes to rate plans) for something that's just dead simple -- something that they don't have to think about when they use. He (rightly) admitted that most average consumers have no concept of what a gigabyte is, or how long it takes to use one up, and that's why the outfit's unlimited plans are still striking a chord -- and in fact, more so now than ever with its three main rivals giving it an even stronger differentiator.

When asked whether Sprint would eventually have no other option but to switch to tiered data plans if heavy users begin to come over in droves, Hesse replied that having enough bandwidth to efficiently go around "could be an issue," and while it's working diligently with OEMs and app developers in order to implement things like WiFi offload, we were told that "nothing is guaranteed forever." We specifically asked if the recent tiered testing implemented at Virgin Mobile (which runs on Sprint's network) was an early indication that Sprint was also leaning this way, and Dan was steadfast in his denial. According to him, the postpaid and prepaid sectors are markedly different beasts, and it's not reasonable to consider that Sprint will follow Virgin's footsteps. Moral of the story? Sprint's clinging to unlimited for as long as it can, but we get the impression that a transition is imminent -- even if it's still a few years out.

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Dan Hesse: Sprint's not following Virgin's tiered data movement, but 'nothing is guaranteed forever'