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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #55, Jan 2013 - Karma Launches Social MiFi Hotspot & Pay-As-You-Go Data!
January 01, 2013

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - January 2013 Issue #55


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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Karma Launches Mobile Hotspot And True Pay-As-You-Go Data
This new company is offering 1GB of 4G data for $14, plus you get 100MB of free data each time you share your connection with a new user.  This essentially combines the concept of FreedomPop (social sharing for free data) and TruConnect (pay-as-you-go data that never expires).  I LOVE this concept, and hope that the company can show respectable growth in 2013.  I'm itching to test the service, however, unfortunately, they don't offer 4G coverage where I live, and they don't currently have any modems that are backwards compatible to 3G.  Once I'm able to test it, I will certainly post a review on the site!

PlatinumTel Re-Launches As PTel Mobile
This is an interesting play.  The article discusses PlatinumTel launching a new prepaid brand PTel, however, the fact is that they're simply re-launching the company under a new brand (and not a very creative re-branding if you ask me).  In other words, they're killing the PlatinumTel Brand.  I don't know enough about the inner workings of the company to speak to why they simply didn't just launch new plans under the PlatinumTel brand.  Maybe it has to do with switching from the Sprint network to T-Mobile, or perhaps their financials were so poor that only a complete re-work would appease investors.  That said, with the name PTel, and a new logo, I'm not sure how that really helps.  Their plans are competitive, however, in the sea of small MVNOs, and the big carriers investing heavily in prepaid, I don't personally understand how PTel can differentiate themselves enough to stay afloat.  I predict a rocky 2013 for this MVNO trying to re-invent itself in a brutally competitive no contract wireless market.

T-Mobile Launches New GoSmart Brand
Android Community
So T-Mobile is launching a new no contract wireless brand.  It makes a lot of sense given its intense focus on prepaid in 2012, essentially shifting the entire company in that direction.  A new brand will allow it to test various plan offerings without further disrupting its already fragile T-Mobile brand re-positioning.  Unlike the PlatinumTel re-branding, T-Mobile actually shows some promise with a multi-brand approach.  I expect T-Mobile to put some fear into the classic prepaid carriers this next year as they continue to make aggressive moves in this crowded market.

Boost Mobile Throttles Data But Keeps Unlimited Branding - A Marketing Copout!

Ok, let's call this what it is: Boost is jumping on the bandwagon and limiting its unlimited plans.  All carriers (postpaid and prepaid) have always had "reasonable use" clauses that allows them to shut off customers' accounts who are using too many minutes or too much data on its unlimited plans.  This is a good thing, as it really only affects abusers who are literally using 10 times, 20 times, or more minutes or data than even the highest usage customers.  This allows them to keep costs as a low as possible for the average user.  However, now carriers are essentially throttling (i.e. cutting down your data speed) to pathetically useless speeds (that more than just abusers will hit).  And the worst part is that legally/technically, they're still offering unlimited usage, because even after your high speed data allocation is consumed you'll still have data access.  It's a pathetic, and very pervasive marketing approach to help improve profitability without eliminating the "unlimited" branding.  I personally encourage carriers to strive for better profitability, which is good for everyone; however, just call it what it is, and do away with "unlimited".  ex. Please just advertise that you get unlimited talk, text, and 2.5GB of 3G/4G data for $55, and don't try to tell me it's a $55 unlimited plan!  The fact that so many internal carrier lawyers are approving this technicality is just sad.  The spirit of unlimited is clearly being violated, and customers deserve better.

Clearwire Looking To MVNOs For Growth

When your own brands fail to succeed, the MVNO market is a decent strategy for growth; let others worry about building brands and signing up customers while you focus on maintaining a decent 4G network.  In December, both kajeet and Karma announced that they would be riding Clearwire's 4G WiMAX network for their data.  This is a great way for these small carriers to gain access to 4G.  It allows Clearwire to squeeze out as much cash as it can from its legacy WiMAX network, while it rushes to build out its 4G LTE network.  All this while Sprint is in the midst of taking back control of Clearwire, which it formed in the first place, and while Sprint simultaneously loses 70% control of its company to Japan's SoftBank (i.e. it's selling the company!).  Oh boy, what a mess!  2013 will certainly prove to be an important year of additional bankruptcies and consolidations as wireless struggles to return to profitability, and prepaid further solidifies itself as the only viable long term wireless strategy.

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