Prepaid wireless providers are making news lately with more choices and greater values. As prepaid goes mainstream, it looks more like a growth engine than ever before. Walmart is forming alliances, while giants AT&T and Verizon Wireless sweeten offers. Carriers are adding 4G No Contract plans with feature rich phones to stay in the fray.
Walmart Teams Up with US Cellular and Alltel Wireless
Walmart announced that US Cellular and Alltel Wireless have joined together to begin offering U Prepaid, a no contract wireless service, in select Walmart stores across 18 states. The service was started in May and is the first alliance of its kind in the industry because it offers customers flexible payment options without signing a contract.
The new alliance provides Walmart customers simplified, easy-to-understand service plan choices. Depending on where customers live, the U Prepaid service will run on either U.S. Cellular’s high-speed national network or Alltel’s advanced coast-to-coast network.
Customers will be able to select one of four U Prepaid devices that best meets their personal needs. The Android-powered Samsung Repp is a touchscreen smartphone for customers who want to stay productive while on the go. The LG Attune/LG Exchange and LG Saber make staying connected to friends and family easy with full QWERTY keyboards, and the Samsung Chrono provides the features and functionality for customers who prefer to use their phone for calling and texting.
Virgin Mobile Introduces 4G with No Contract Plans
Sir Richard Branson states in his video manifesto for A Higher Calling, “Why pay for minutes when it’s unlimited data you really want?” He is referring to the fact that Virgin Mobile customers will be able to enjoy unlimited 4G data where available and messaging on an iconic Android-powered device, all for just $35 a month. The first 4G smartphone in the Beyond Talk program is the HTC EVO V 4G.
Virgin Mobile USA was recently “Highest Ranked Customer Service Performance among Non-Contract Wireless Providers” by J.D. Power and Associates.
“Higher Calling” refers to ways Virgin Mobile looks for ways to give customers the best products at a great price.
AT&T Ups Data for Prepaid GoPhone Customers
In mid-April, AT&T doubled the amount of data offered to its GoPhone customers. Customers on the $5 data plan will now get 50 MB; the $15 plan comes with 200 MB and the $25 plan comes with 1 GB of data. The data plans are an add-on to AT&T’s $50 all-you-can-eat talk and text prepaid plan and its $25 prepaid plan, which comes with unlimited text messaging and 250 voice minutes.
AT&T appears to be making its no contract plans more attractive to customers that normally would sign on with more cost-competitive prepaid providers.
By comparison, T-Mobile’s $50 prepaid plan comes with unlimited voice calls, text messages and data, with a 100 MB cap before speed throttling sets in. Verizon Wireless also offers a $50 prepaid plan with unlimited talk, text and internet access.
PrepaYd Wireless Shows Off “Y Plans”
Smaller prepaid providers are usually more cost-competitive. PrepaYd Wireless just launched its newly added feature rich “Y Plans” No Contract Unlimited Plans, starting at $35 a month and introducing the Y $60 Plan for Everything 4G.
“Y Pay More” PrepaYd Wireless offers its introductory Y $35 Plan for Unlimited Talk & Text, includes all taxes and surcharges.
Josh Berman, vice president of PrepaYd Wireless, is excited to be among the first prepaid wireless carriers to offer 4G WiMAX. “Our 4G WiMAX coverage is in addition to our basic web and 3G EVDO coverage that’s available with some of our other plans so our subscribers will still have great coverage outside of 4G coverage,” Berman said.
PrepaYd announced a prepaid distribution agreement with Emida technologies, a provider of prepaid products and payment processing platforms. The carrier stated that by using established dealer networks, social media, news services, word of mouth versus expensive TV advertising to build its brand, it is able to pass on savings to its customers.
Verizon Offers New Prepaid Plan
Verizon has a new no-contract Android smartphone, the Samsung Illusion, which retails for about $170. It is being offered with a new $80 prepaid plan that includes all-you-can-eat voice minutes, text messages and 1 GB of data. Its other new prepaid device, the LTE-capable Jetpack 4510L mobile hotspot, costs about $130 and comes with a $15 weekly plan for 250 MB, a $60 monthly plan for 3 GB, and a $90 plan for 10 GB.
Analysts say that the big carriers are expanding efforts in the prepaid market because growth in traditional contracts is waning. Smaller carriers could get hurt by AT&T’s and Verizon’s push into the no contract market.
T-Mobile Rebranding Image
T-Mobile USA is rebranding its image, upgrading to LTE and refarming its spectrum. The carrier is promoting its growth in the prepaid market, despite its mounting postpaid subscriber losses.
According to Mike Katz, T-Mobile’s vice president of marketing and head of prepaid, the nation’s No. 4 carrier is seeing customers adopt its “Monthly 4G” prepaid plans in record numbers. In a company blog post Katz wrote that “our prepaid business has doubled over the past year with the launch of Monthly4G plans and nearly 60 percent of new Monthly4G customers are using smartphones.”
The company’s $50 prepaid plan offers unlimited voice, messaging and up to 100 MB of data at HSPA+ speeds before being throttled; the $60 plan offers that and up to 2 GB of data at HSPA+ speeds before being throttled and the $70 plan offers up to 5 GB of data at HSPA+ speeds before being throttled.
Over the past year T-Mobile has been bulking up its 4G prepaid offerings to not only compete with the likes of MetroPCS, Leap Wireless, and TracFone, but also to serve as a growth engine, say experts. •