Prepaid Wireless Tracker
- May 2015 Issue #83
wireless is a growing and truly exciting industry. At
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Google Launches No Contract Service "Project
Fi" - Should Carriers Be Scared?
Google's Project Fi is a no contract wireless service that
uses WiFi, T-Mobile, and Sprint networks. At a base price of
$20, it's not really the cheapest deal in town, but offers good value
with access to multiple networks. The service currently,
however, only works on the Google Nexus 6 smartphone, which is the only
phone capable of supporting the required automatic network switching.
small MVNOs who offer low cost prepaid
service, and large carriers are taking note, Project Fi is not yet a
real competitive threat. That said, it could quickly become a
market disruptor if a large number of phones are supported in the
Note that the service also allows you to pay only for the data that you
use by crediting you for unused data. Revenue received for
unused services is historically an important source of margin for
carriers, so this really helps to put pressure on classic providers.
This concept isn't new, however, with Google behind it, the
spirit of the threat is completely different.
Ideally the service would work on all nationwide networks, however, the
chance of AT&T and Verizon allowing Google's service on their
network is very unlikely in the existing paradigm. In fact,
if the service becomes too widespread, T-Mobile and Sprint will
renegotiate their contract, which they have the
right to do with the
If at some point in the future WiFi becomes truly ubiquitous, like
water and electricity, then we could see a major shift in how carriers
and and customers think about wireless phone
access. Perhaps Google will become a major investor
in Sprint and/or T-Mobile, and truly put pressure on AT&T and
Verizon to compete. It seems unlikely that Google would
outright purchase and operate a telecom. It will be
interesting to see how this service evolves.
Verizon Is Shedding Prepaid Customers
It's not surprising that Verizon is losing prepaid customers.
Their prepaid plans have always bordering on pathetic, and
they have openly said that they are not interested in this lower
segment. Personally, while I believe it will be awhile before
they're materially impacted, the long term future (10 years) will see
postpaid as the minority.
It's a misconception that prepaid customers are lower value,
particularly with low or no phone subsidies. The industry is
at an inflection point where the average customer (including high end
users) are seriously starting to question why they should lock into a
contract, and why they're paying so much more for a contract plan.
Is it really better coverage and service? The easy
answer is "no". That said, there are often still coverage
differences on prepaid, and people are always hesitant to change habits
I expect that Verizon is thinking that when it becomes critical they
can simply slash prices and promote no contract plans. Unlike
smaller carriers who need to develop a brand presence, Verizon won't
challenge. In the meantime, however, Verizon is
essentially irrelevant in the prepaid space.
QR Codes Make Top-Up Faster & Keeps
Phone Numbers Private
QR Code Press
This new process uses a QR code scanned from a phone to capture your
phone number for a topup transaction. Real time topup has
long since been the preferred in-store payment method, however, it
requires the clerk or customer to manually enter the phone number.
This is time consuming, and prone to error.
Requiring double-entry helps to minimize errors, however,
it's still time consuming. Associating your phone number with
a reusable topup card is another method that seeks to eliminate phone
number entry, however, setting that up is not intuitive, and leaves the
customer with yet another card to carry
I like this QR code process, and quite honestly, I'm surprised it
hasn't been done already. It will also need a process to
support the times when you want to topup a different account than the
phone you are holding. Perhaps an app that manages multiple
QR codes for each account you have could be a solution.
However, that might remove some of the simplicity of a single
QR code approach. That said, the long term solution will be
NFC, so I'm thinking the QR code approach will be an interim solution.
Depending on what retailers need to develop to support it, it
may be a non-starter when they can clearly see NFC coming as
the de facto standard. It will be interesting to see if this
takes off. Had they implemented this 5 years ago, it would
have been a massive hit!
Walmart Family Mobile Gets More Data
Walmart's Family Mobile plan, powered by T-Mobile, has added 500MB more
data to each plan. This was a needed change to remain
competitive, so prospective customers who recently evaluated the
program may want to reconsider!
Cricket Wireless Launches Samsung Galaxy
S6 With New Payment Plans
Cricket now offers the Samsung Galaxy S6 flagship smartphone.
Although prepaid is still lagging behind the launch of
popular phone releases, I would say that less than a month isn't too
bad. It's not clear whether the delay is due to OEM
requirements, or prepaid carriers themselves moving more slowly.
Either way, this small delay is hardly material.
Rather than outlay
$650, customers can now use one of Cricket's
financing plans. There are several options. I
recommend avoiding any program that charges interest (even if
deferred!), and paying it off as quickly as possible. There's
nothing worse than paying off a phone that is either damaged, or
becoming obsolete. And if you take more time to save up,
you're likely to see the price of the phone decrease!
Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and
tell me what you think!
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