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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #101, Nov 2016 - Cricket Beefs Up $50 Plan; T-Mobile Dumps Walmart Brand!
November 01, 2016
Prepaid Wireless Tracker
- November 2016, Issue #101
Cricket announced that it's now offering its $50 plan with 8GB of data, up from 5GB. This is a very competitive plan, and gets even better when you signup for autopay, which earns you $5 off per month. This plan is not only competitive in the prepaid market, but also super competitive when compared to postpaid plans. Note that this is stated as a limited time offer when you read the small print, so if you're considering Cricket, I recommend jumping on this fast.
In addition, existing customers on the $50 plan will need to proactively enroll in this new plan by going to a store, calling customer care, or logging into your account online. I expect Cricket could make this a permanent offer if the usage metrics look good after the trial period is completed.
TracFone already sells the very successful Straight Talk in Walmart, as well as Net10, and Total Wireless (as well as TracFone of course), so this acquisition makes a lot of sense for them. Though I'm surprised that T-Mobile would let go of that business. It likely wants to focus resources on the T-Mobile brand. However, the market has shown that multiple brands can prosper, and a Walmart brand is surely valuable. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this brand evolves, or if TracFone will ultimately fold it into one of its existing brands. That said, this decision will likely be driven by the most powerful retailer on the planet, Walmart.
This past month Google launched Group Plans (otherwise known as Family Plans) on Project Fi. It allows you to have up to 5 additional lines on one account, with the 2nd through 6th line getting a $5 discount. Thus, each additional line pays $15 for unlimited talk and text; data is still $10/GB. It will be interesting to see how Google evolves this program. The reality is that in its current state, being available only on limited Google phones, the program really does not represent any notable threat to any carrier.
In addition, note that other carriers already have WiFi switching built into their phones. Project Fi is unique, however, because it includes switching between multiple networks (T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular). It's unlikely that we'll see any other carriers offer this capability any time soon. If Google were to get aggressive, it could discount its phones, and put in some marketing muscle to attract customers. However, until customers have access to use Project Fi on Samsung and Apple phones, the program will remain quite niche in my opinion.
You've seen reported this site for years that Verizon remains completely out touch with the prepaid market. Their subscriber results continue to demonstrate a decline. Despite making recent tweaks to their prepaid plans, they continue to win the "pathetic prepaid provider" award. Now that AT&T has moved into the first position ahead of Verizon as the largest carrier in the U.S., and other carriers continue to be aggressive, Verizon will need to make some moves.
It will be interesting to see how their postpaid figures look, though are clearly going to come in looking much better than their prepaid performance (obviously). We always knew that they would have to see real revenue impacting declines before making any significant moves in the prepaid space.
Following Rogers' acquisition of prepaid competitor Mobilicity, they're changing the data roaming rate from $1.50/MB to $6/MB (~$6K/GB). The is stating that this is due to IT system migration and business limitations. I'd be interested in understanding this in greater detail, as I can't understand why roaming partners and their fees would be impacted by this migration, and price plan changes are usually table changes on the backend. That said, these types of platforms really are rocket science, so I can actually appreciate, as lame as it is, that there may be limitations that are resulting in this increased cost.
That said, very few people encounter data roaming, and on prepaid you're not going to receive a surprise massive bill. In addition, you can change your phone settings to disable roaming. Thus, avoiding this fee is well, very avoidable, and I would describe this lawsuit as completely frivolous!
T-Mobile announced that it is now throttling users of its smartphone mobile hotspot feature when network traffic warrants it. This comes on the heels of its launch of unlimited data, and helps to control network data usage. It's actually not an unreasonable stipulation, as it's only at times when the network is congested, as opposed to some other carriers that throttle certain services all the time.
That said, if you live in a large city that has marginal wireless bandwidth, you may find that you're virtually always throttled, which would make the service pretty much useless for you. Hopefully T-Mobile will continue to build out its network, and this won't become a real issue for anyone.
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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