Sprint Nextel, one of the four biggest cell phone carriers in the U.S., announced it is adding a fee for smartphone activation.  

The Overland Park, Kan. based company will increase post-paid rates with a $10 premium data add-on or charge to activations of all smartphones beginning on Jan. 30. With the growth of data consumption, Sprint says this fee will allow them to keep unlimited plans for its customers while maintaining a healthy wireless network.

Sprint wants its customers to experience the range of entertainment and productivity possibilities available with today's wireless technology, Bob H. Johnson, president of Sprint's consumer business, said in a statement. While some of our competitors impose overage charges and complex plans, Sprint continues to provide a worry-free, unlimited data experience while on the Sprint network. This is responsible, sustainable and reflects our commitment to simplicity and value.

Existing customers will not be affected unless they upgrade or activate another smartphone. The company says smartphones average 10 times more data usage than feature phones.

Sprint's unlimited data plans, with or without the $10 charge, continue to beat the offerings of our top national competitors, who cap users' data, charge data overages, and do not offer the unique functionality of Any Mobile, Anytime, which gives subscribers on the Sprint network unlimited calling to any other wireless user in America regardless of carrier, Johnson said.

AT&T, one of Sprint's main competitors, got rid of its unlimited data plans last year. Sprint offers unlimited data for $79.99 per month. Other companies in the telecom carrier space, Verizon and T-Mobile, offer unlimited data for $119.98 and $99.00 respectively.