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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #46, April 2012 - Can A Free Wireless Broadband Business Survive?
April 01, 2012

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - April 2012 Issue #46


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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FreedomPop To Offer Free Wireless Broadband
Technology Review
Set to launch this summer, FreedomPop will offer 1GB of free monthly data, with the option to buy discounted prepaid wireless plans.  Users can also earn additional free data by participating in certain social activities.  They describe the model as being similar to Skype (who's co-founder is involved with this company).  They'll be providing devices that work on Clear's network, but don't mention anything about backwards compatibility with 3G.  4G coverage will eventually be everywhere, but in the meantime, this will have limited/targeted appeal.  I think that's a good thing as FreedomPop gains experience with their business model and operations, and how customers ultimately interact with their free and paid services.  It will be interesting to see how this goes.

NetZero Launches Prepaid Wireless Broadband
You can review the pricing by following the link, but the key point to highlight is that it's 4G only.  This means that there's no backwards compatibility to 3G, so you'd better be sure that you live, work, and play where you have 4G coverage otherwise the service will be useless to you.  Also, I found the note regarding customers being able to self-throttle the speed to maximize data usage to be somewhat odd.  Maybe it's just me, but if I'm engaging in a activity on my computer, I want it to complete as quickly as possible.  Slowing things down doesn't save any data; it simply makes me wait longer for it.  Perhaps I would run out of time and therefore consume less content online in a given session on the computer, but that seems like an odd theory/approach, don't you think?  Anyway, it's always good to see new entrants into the prepaid mobile broadband space!

Page Plus Adds More Data
MarketWatch (press release)
Page Plus has doubled the data of its $55 plan to 1GB, and its $39.99 Unlimited Talk n Text plan gets five times the data it previously had at 100MB.  I have to say that Page Plus has been one of those quiet, smaller players that has consistently either increased the value of its plans, or decreased pricing.  Unlike some of the larger carriers that seem to make more dramatic swings in both directions, Page Plus takes smaller, more methodical steps towards better and better customer value.  Keep it coming Page Plus!

Walmart Names T-Mobile Supplier Of The Year
Given T-Mobile's challenges in the market as of late, this is a nice pat on the back from the largest retailer on the planet.  If you've ever worked with Walmart on a business level, you'll know that they are extremely demanding, and often discount the needs of the carrier, both in terms of branding and cost structure.  I imagine that T-Mobile was more accommodating than most, and with high revenues and profits for Walmart, T-Mobile is now in their good graces.  Good job!  I just hope that T-Mobile can be profitable in Walmart and sustain the value that they've been offering.

Cricket Signs Wholesale 4G LTE Agreement With Clear
This seems like a wise move by Cricket to help accelerate its 4G LTE expansion, which it has already begun.  Hopefully the financials are such that they can offer customers good value while remaining profitable.  As wholesale agreements are often expensive, if customers don't use Cricket's native 4G network enough, the company could lose money if too much data is used while on Clear's network.  Time-to-market and long term profitability are always a delicate balance!

Boost to Launch PreCash Mobile Payment Application
Technology Bloom News
The app will support utility payments, insurance and car payments, etc.  There's no mention of being able to pay your wireless account though.  I'm all about mobile payment applications, however, this approach seems somewhat lack luster.  Though I expect it will provide reminders and have nice widgets and the like.  That said, if you've got a credit or debit card, why wouldn't you just setup autopay for each of your bills, and not have to worry about managing a multitude of payments on a weekly basis.  Manual payments may provide you with more control to review bills before paying them, however, I'm not sure that I'd want to be reviewing them on my phone; I'd rather use my PC, download statements, and use online banking; but that's just me!

MetroPCS Gets Hammered By The Market For Offering Rebates
So MetroPCS is spending more money to acquire customers in a competitive market, and the analysts are surprised?  The reality is that the wireless market in general (prepaid and postpaid) is more dynamic than ever.  Metro could have simply increased their subsidy and applied a straight reduction to the price of the phone.  Rebates, however, tend to be more profitable as a surprising number of customer never send in their rebate, or fail to meet the requirements.  Personally I hate rebates for just that reason.  Too many valid rebates get rejected because people are either late with sending it in, don't provide the needed receipt or UPC code, etc.  This ultimately leads to customer frustration and churn.  Regardless, there's no doubt Metro is working hard on customer acquisition, and analyst in general do more harm than good with their typically shallow view of company operations.

Boost Offer Lower Plan Option - As A Promotion
Boost is offering a $45 plan on three of its phones that does NOT include unlimited Web.  What the article doesn't note is that it's a promotional offer from March 29 to May 31.  The beauty of Boost's previous strategy was its unlimited everything approach; a simple and easy to understand approach.  This new plan muddies the waters, and seems somewhat uninspiring given the restrictions (no Web and limited phone selection).  This is only marginally news worthy, but in the spirit of keeping you informed of market changes, I thought best to include it nonetheless.

Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA Receive Award For Customer Service Champions
MarketWatch (press release)
If you search online you'll find an endless number of complaints about wireless customer service, and how awful they are.  So if you're looking for a industry recognized carrier for high customer service scores, you'll want to take note of these Sprint prepaid brands.

Maturing Postpaid Wireless Market Looks To Prepaid For Growth
MarketWatch (press release)
The title says it all, and my only feedback is "I told you so."  Prepaid makes a lot of sense, and customer are now more aware than ever of the value (and quality) that is now available on prepaid.  Enough said.

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