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Sprint, Best Buy offer free service to students, full price for device

Perhaps tired of only hosting “free” services, Sprint announced it would begin offering one free year of wireless service to eligible students. The offer is being made in partnership with big-box retailer Best Buy and requires students to pay full price for a device upfront and activate the service through a Best Buy retail location.

The plan, which will be made available through Jan. 4, includes 12 months of unlimited talk, text and one gigabyte of data on a smartphone or just unlimited talk and text for a basic phone and does not require a contract. Unlimited data can be added to a smartphone for $10 per month. Customers will need to activate a new line of services and are responsible for a $36 activation fee and any monthly tax or surcharge. Sprint typically charges $70 per month for the smartphone plan and $50 per month for basic phones.

Further bolstering the “free-ness” of the offer, for every additional new referral line of service signing up for one of Sprint’s Unlimited, My Way or My All-in plans on the same account will result in an additional 12 months of free service for the student line. The referral lines must sign up for service and a two-year contract by Jan. 4.

Customers are responsible for the “student activated price” of the device that must be purchased and activated through the Best Buy outlet. That student price is basically the full retail price of the device. For example, Best Buy currently lists the “student activate price” for an Apple iPhone 5C 16 GB at $600; a Samsung Galaxy S 4 at $650; and the LG Nexus 5 at $450.

To qualify for the plan, “students” will need to provide either a current student identification; enrollment confirmation for the current school year; a current report card; or an enrollment confirmation or tuition receipt from the current school year. Those students that are home schooled will need to provide state documents confirming that option.

Sprint, which hinted at new rate plans offering for the fourth quarter, recently posted continued distressed operational results for the third quarter. Those results included the loss of 313,000 net customers and flat revenues. The carrier has seen considerable activity from network partners that have been offering a variety of “free” or heavily discounted services using Sprint’s CDMA and LTE network. Those include FreedomPop, Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless.

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