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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #54, Dec '12 - 2012 Proves Prepaid Is On Its Way To Domination!
December 01, 2012

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - December 2012 Issue #54


Prepaid wireless is a growing and truly exciting industry.  At I try to provide you with in-depth information that isn't readily available anywhere else.  Its content is original, and created from firsthand experience working in the prepaid wireless industry.

This monthly email provides you with a quick glance at what's in the news so that you can easily keep informed.  I believe in brief, to-the-point summaries/commentary so that you can move onto other tasks in your day.  Each snippet includes a link to the original story should you be interested in the full details.

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Wireless Growth Moves To Stealing Subscribers
While this has largely been true for postpaid for a number of years, 2012 was the inflection point for prepaid wireless as well.  Growth in prepaid has slowed dramatically from getting new wireless customers to resorting to stealing from other carriers (prepaid and postpaid).  What this means for consumers is more thoughtful execution, and an enhanced focus on the customer experience as hardware and plan features become commoditized.  I expect to see some further consolidation in 2013 amongst prepaid players as they compete for customers share of mind, and retailer peg space.

Cricket Launches 4G Samsung Galaxy S III
On November 23rd, Cricket launched the iconic Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone.  At $549.99 it's expensive, however, customers can save money monthly over contract plans.  Remember that this is a 4G phone, unlike Cricket's iPhone 5, which only runs on its 3G network (an iPhone limitation; not a Cricket decision).  It's now abundantly clear that prepaid carriers are getting top tier phones more and more quickly.  What used to be a delay of a year or more, has been whittled  down to weeks.  So now device pricing, and not device availability, is the only real meaningful barrier to switching from postpaid to prepaid.

TruConnect Expands Walmart-Exclusive Prepaid Broadband Service Plans
TruConnect initially launched as a pay-as-you-go data service that charged per kilobyte with no expiration date; a feature that people have been emailing me in droves about for literally years.  These new plans offer access to a variety of plans for moderate and heavy users, with most plans allowing rollover of unused data, which is unique to the industry.  I've been using a MiFi2200 for a number of years now, and while adequate, it's pretty old news at this point with no battery or network coverage indicator, and limited battery life (2-3 hours).  Hopefully they'll be able to offer more inspiring devices in the near future.  I am, however, excited about these new plan options.

T-Mobile Clearly Moving Focus to Prepaid As It Struggles With Postpaid
There's no doubt that T-Mobile is focusing hard on prepaid.  Not only did their senior executives state as such, but their acquisition (sorry..."merger") of MetroPCS supports that strategic direction.  That said, some purport that the Metro acquisition was more about spectrum than actual customer growth.  Regardless, T-Mobile is certainly pushing its no contract Monthly 4G plans.  It's certainly a risky bet, however, companies that focus on one strategy and execute well have the best chance of succeeding, rather than being distracted with a myriad of simultaneous strategies.  Clearly it's become very challenging for T-Mobile to compete in the contract space, particular with no native iPhone offer.  It will be interesting to see how the next year plays out for this struggling carrier with somewhat of an identity crisis at play.

FreedomPop Free Broadband Service Review
Mobile Magazine
This is a fairly thorough review of FreedomPop's free 4G no contract service.  I've been itching to test and review it, however, they don't offer 4G where I live, so the service is useless to me.  For their program to really take off, they need to have a modem that is backwards compatible with 3G, or wait until 4G is truly ubiquitous.  That said, the current limitation is probably a good business decision as it allows them to test the program and business metrics before their customer base becomes too overwhelming.

Boost Mobile Launches Bring Your Own Sprint Device (BYOSD)
Well, well, what do we have here; Sprint finally opening up to use of its postpaid phones on prepaid!  As the article notes, I agree that this may not be very inspiring as dealers have been flashing over Sprint phones to Boost for years.  In addition, limiting it to 15 relatively uninspiring and old phones really renders the "program" pretty lame (for lack of a better word).  In reality, they should allow any phone that's off contract to be used on prepaid to avoid losing customers.  While they will certainly see some cannibalization of postpaid customers off-contract seeking to save money by moving to prepaid, customers are savvy and will either find a way to do it, or leave the Sprint family for a competitor.  Postpaid customers in fringe coverage areas must also consider that on prepaid they won't have access to Sprint roaming partners, so coverage won't be as good on prepaid.  This isn't a consideration for customers living in major city centers.  I think Sprint should really trial (ex. 6 months) allowing any off-contract Sprint phone on prepaid to test the outcome.  I bet they would see postpaid churn (to non-Sprint competitors) materially decrease, and handset subsidy costs decrease on prepaid.

Verizon Doubles Data On $80 Prepaid Plan
So now you get 2GB on their $80 no contract plan.  As a leading postpaid provider, Verizon is terrified that offering a competitive prepaid plan would cannibalize its contract business.  Here is Verizon testing the market as it continues to dabble in prepaid.  No serious offer here folks; sorry.  It is, however, amusing to see watch them SLOWLY evolve their prepaid offerings.

What's New At

  • Added Cricket Samsung Galaxy S III & LG Optimus Regard to 4G Phones

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

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