Confirmed: Sprint to keep unlimited data, whether or not iPhone 5 is LTE

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has finally addressed concerns that the carrier might drop its unlimited data plans for an upcoming sixth-generation iPhone. Speaking to CNET’s Roger Cheng, Hesse said his company has little interest in changing unlimited data plans by the time the next iPhone hits the market later this year, whether or not it is LTE capable.

Sprint is the only major United States wireless operator still offering an all-you-can-eat data plans to smartphone customers. This, as Hesse often puts it, remains the carrier’s “distinctive differentiator”

While we’ve known that Sprint will keep unlimited data plans for 4G LTE phones, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the offering would entail the next iPhone.

Commenting on the combination of unlimited and the iPhone, Hesse told CNET:

I’m not anticipating the unlimited plan would change by that point. That’s our distinctive differentiator. Frankly, it’s a marriage made in heaven. We’re clearly attracting customers from our competitors.

Sprint said today it activated 1.5 million iPhones during the first quarter of this year, 44 percent to new customers, amounting to 660,000 new iPhone subscribers.

But without the iPhone, the carrier would have actually lost 400,000 customers.

What do you think, is unlimited data Sprint’s distinctive differentiator?