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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #94, April 2016 - New CA Bill Would Erode Major Benefit Of Prepaid Wireless
April 01, 2016

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - April 2016, Issue #94


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.  The content is original, and created from firsthand experience working in the prepaid wireless industry for over a decade.

This monthly email provides you with a quick glance at what's trending 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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Note: I do not have any affiliation, nor do I get paid by any of the sites that I link to below.  They are simply topics that I deemed interesting, and provide a link for you to learn more, and I give credit to the source by listing their name under the title.  Enjoy!

New California Bill Seeks To Eliminate Prepaid Wireless Anonymity
If this California bill goes through, every prepaid phone sale, including SIM cards, would require the purchaser to provide a valid form of ID to eliminate anonymity.  People are stating that these phones are being used by terrorists, and are often referred to as "burner phones".  The reality, however, is that they could purchase a phone from outside CA, steal a phone, or simply use fake ID when purchasing.  One of the benefits of prepaid phones has always been the ease of purchasing it; this new process would be expensive and cumbersome to implement, administer, and enforce.  They're also great for simple privacy, for those who don't want their personal information lying around in corporate databases that are constantly getting breached.

I think it's fair to say this will not affect terrorism whatsoever, but rather will place a burden on good people who prefer a prepaid option.  The CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) attempted something similar many years ago; it never went anywhere as it was simply too complex and expensive to deploy, and garnered huge resistance.  I expect this bill will die a slow death!

The Big 4 Offer Free Calls And Text To Belgium
Tech Times

The four major carriers are offering calling cost relief in response to the tragic events in Belgium.  Interestingly, Sprint is the only one also offering free international roaming for those with U.S. phones in Belgium, which seems like a far greater benefit than simply calls originating from the U.S.  Of course while it's great that carriers regularly do this, it's hard not to think that their fundamental motivation is marketing PR, as opposed to any real concern per se.  Regardless, it's good to know for those who need it; hopefully they sent a text or other communication to customers they see with calls to/within Belgium, so they can take advantage of this short term benefit.

Sprint Shifting Away From "Lower Quality Prepaid Customers"

Sprint is now stating that they're shifting their business away from "low quality" customers to help improve their profitability.  They don't, however, articulate what that actually means.  Will they be focusing on getting Sprint subscribers and divert marketing away from Boost and Virgin?  Will they be finally eliminating the Virgin brand altogether?  In reality, prepaid customers can be very lucrative if you know how to run a prepaid business.  In addition, if they had an appropriate BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program, prepaid customers would be a straight revenue proposition.  There wouldn't be any phone subsidy, and any payment made would simply be top line revenue.

For the longest time I believed that there was no real value to a lot of the MVNOs given that the large carriers evolved to have solid prepaid offerings.  However, now I'm seeing that smart MVNOs can target these "lower value" customers that Sprint and other carriers no longer want.  With the right management team implementing intelligent offers, there could be a fantastic opportunity to build a very profitable company while Sprint continues to bleed out!

Sprint Further De-Emphasizes Prepaid, Leaving AT&T And T-Mobile To Take Prepaid Customers
Investor's Business Daily

The past several years has seen AT&T and T-Mobile heavily invested in growing their prepaid brands, while Sprint has been struggling with how to manage their Virgin and Boost brands.  What I find humorous in this article is the statement that Sprint has meaningfully pulled away from the prepaid market.  Other than some press statements, and some adjustments to the Virgin plans (including eliminating payLo & Broadband2Go), they still have a large prepaid presence with Boost, not to mention that Sprint has hundreds of MVNOs riding its network, which largely focus on the prepaid market.

Perhaps Sprint is looking to evolve to a passive prepaid strategy by servicing MVNOs only, however, nothing at present reveals any particular exit from the market.  It's really an internal brand struggle that they can't seem to reconcile.  It also seems pretty apparent that now that AT&T and T-Mobile are so powerful in prepaid, Sprint can no longer compete, and is shifting focus.

It's really quite amusing to see them flailing around with no real direction or strategy that anyone can understand.  That said, it's even more entertaining to read articles from so called prepaid analysts who are supposed to be experts, who really have very little knowledge of the industry, let alone the particular inner workings of Sprint or any other carrier.  Anyway, it will be interesting to see what Sprint is up to after the next 12 months of its ongoing struggle!

Cricket Wireless Offers LG Spree & Samsung Galaxy S7 Smartphones

This past month Cricket launched a lower end LG Spree, and the higher end Galaxy S7 smartphone.  It's always great to see more options for prepaid.  I was expecting that Cricket would have organized around launching flagship phones at the same time as they become available on postpaid, however, this lag isn't too bad.  As nice as the S7 is, however, purchasing it unsubsidized really would be hard to swallow at $650.  Prospective buyers will likely want to wait for a promotion of some type.  Ordinarily I would say that getting the previous generation at this point would be a great deal as prices drop, however, with the return of the microSD expansion slot, and water resistance, the S7 is really a must have over the S6.

Project Fi Is Now Out Of Beta & Available Without An Invite
Droid Life

Google's no contract wireless service that runs on the T-Mobile and Sprint networks no longer requires an invite.  The invite approach is Google's standard way of controlling the roll out of new products and services.  It has been in Beta for about a year.  During that period competition in the prepaid market has intensified, resulting in Google's service plans no longer being as competitive as they were when first announced.

Don't get me wrong though, it's still a good deal depending on your usage needs.  The most compelling part is that they will actually credit you for unused data each month, so you truly only pay for what you use.  Also keep in mind that you are limited to specific Nexus phones; you can't just port over any Android phone.  This largely has to do with how their service can toggle between networks.  That said, I expect this is likely a software feature that could eventually be installed on any device in the future.  Though Google is probably seeking to keep close control over the end-to-end customer experience at this point in time.

Boost Mobile Offers Half-Off To Attract Family Plan Customers From Competitors
Wireless Week

So Sprint is at it again, however, this time with its prepaid Boost brand.  When companies ditch innovation and leadership in favor of competing solely on price, you know they're desperate.  That said, the prepaid market is very mature, and as a result innovation really is a challenge, leaving a lot of carriers to compete on price.  This usually results in a race to the bottom until the survivors are identified.

Anyway, here we've got an offer for those switching from a different carrier for $60/month for two lines that each get unlimited talk, text, and 10GB of high speed data, and unlimited 2G data thereafter. It really is a great deal.  HOWEVER, note the small print that states that "prices and offers are subject to change without notice" and that "Boost reserves the right to modify, extend or cancel [the] offer at any time."  This type of legalese is of course always required, however, it does make you ponder how long you'll be able to keep the plan.  It's probably at least a year, and with the ease of switching with cross-carrier compatible, unlocked phones, it could be worth trying for those who don't mind the need to switch carries later with likely minimal notice (ex. 30 days).

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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