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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #53, Nov 2012 - FreedomPop FREE 4G Now Available!
November 01, 2012

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - November 2012 Issue #53


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's Free 4G Mobile Broadband Now In Limited Live Beta

I've been looking forward to the launch of this service.  It's an interesting model that could really take off.  The current issues are that coverage is limited, so while they allow me to order the modem, it won't work where I currently live, work, and play, so testing it isn't feasible.  Also, without 3G backwards compatibility, even those in 4G markets will have coverage issues as they move around (unless they stay in one general location, which isn't in the spirit of mobile broadband!).  They say that they're going to have this functionality later, hopefully shortly after the Beta test is completed (no end date on that yet either).  Anyway, I'll certainly report back when I get my hands on one when coverage is available in my area!

MetroPCS Gets Flagship Samsung Galaxy S III!
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen.  With the availability of the iPhone 5 shortly after national launch on Cricket and other regional carriers (not Metro), and the Galaxy S3 also available on prepaid not too long after its debut, prepaid has officially entered the realm of the mainstream.  Prepaid wireless is no longer for the credit challenged or so-called low end market.  It's literally taken years since I first began preaching that prepaid would catch up to postpaid, and that time is finally here.  The future possibilities are endless as we will continue to see the postpaid market decline even more rapidly.  I don't like to do this often, however, for those nay sayers, now is the time to say "I told you so"!

Net10 Adds Family Plans
Net10 (part of TracFone) now offers family plans, which basically allows you to add a line to their unlimited plans at a discount.  While this concept isn't anything new in wireless, it's just starting to proliferate in the prepaid wireless world.  In addition to the discount you get from adding lines, it makes billing and payments more convenient for families.  We should expect to see additional prepaid providers offer and market family plans, which can also be extended to serve small businesses.

Cricket Eliminates Its Daily Plan Offer
Cricket is streamlining their offerings by discontinuing their daily plan.  This is a good thing.  There have been essentially two flavors of daily plans in the market over time; the first being one that charges you a daily fee regardless of whether or not you use your phone (Cricket's plan was like this).  The second flavor only charges you on days that you use your phone.  For occasional users, the latter approach can be a great deal, even at $2/day.  However, that model is rarely profitable for carriers, which is why it has not been widespread, and pricing on such plans has increased over time.  The fact is that if you use your phone occasionally, a per minute plan should be just fine.  For occasional users with more usage, there are plenty of bucketed monthly plans that don't cost as much as monthly unlimited plans.  Daily plans are an unnecessary, and often confusing option for customers to think about and for carriers to maintain and manage.  Good decision Cricket!

Verizon Now Allows iPhone 4 & 4S On Prepaid
Prepaid Reviews (blog)
This is both encouraging and amusing.  Verizon has historically been very proactive to ensure that prepaid does NOT have any chance of cannibalizing its thriving postpaid business, with uninspiring prepaid plan price points, and lack luster phones.  So now that the iPhone 4 series is beyond old news and at the end of its lifecycle, Verizon is allowing it on prepaid.  There's some exaggeration there, as the iPhone 4, while old, is still a good buy for many people, particularly on postpaid, and the inventory of new and used handsets is certainly plentiful.  This is Verizon taking additional baby steps towards becoming more competitive in the prepaid space.  Undoubtedly, they'll continue to lag behind in prepaid until they see postpaid declining too rapidly to bare.

PrepaYd Wireless Now Allows Bring Your Own Sprint Phone
While I think the title of this article is a little suspect (which is why I changed it here!), the fact that you can activate certain Sprint handsets on PrepaYd Wireless plans is a great evolution of their service.  I suspect the restrictions are largely to help to avoid losing iPhones, and other higher end phones to Sprint's MVNOs.  When you think about it, it seems so feckless for carriers to spend so much time and money customizing their phones.  Just let OEMs compete on hardware, and let customers activate phones on any service they desire.  i.e. Carriers need to exit the handset (and corresponding handset subsidy) part of the business.  Carriers need to focus on plans and customer service, and leave the hardware open.  One only needs to look at the European model to see how well such an approach can work.

Cricket Launches ZTE Engage Smartphone
Cricket continues to stretch its reach to the higher end, and this smartphone certainly helps.  With similar specs to the original HTC EVO, it's not wholly inspiring, however, does pack some punch with its $250 price tag with no contract required.

T-Mobile USA To Gobble Up MetroPCS

Billing World
Waiting only for FCC approval, the "merger" between T-Mobile and MetroPCS is pretty much a done deal.  While they're calling it a merger, it's really an acquisition of Metro by T-Mobile (with some funky dancing due to T-Mobile's foreign ownership), but we'll leave the semantics to those that truly care.  T-Mobile executives have been quoted as saying that they really just want Metro's spectrum, which is hard (and expensive) to come by these days.  Whatever the case, expect other carriers to be launching campaigns to poach Metro customers where possible!

Virgin Mobile USA To Eventually Get iPhone 5
Mac Rumors
I'm honestly not sure why the speculation as to the launch timing/delay.  Clearly Sprint wants to capitalize on the iPhone 5 rush for its postpaid business before offering a competing prepaid product.  Yes, the Virgin version will be much more expensive, however, Virgin Mobile plans are a much better deal, and savvy customers are likely to prefer a Virgin iPhone.  It's kind of sad for me to have to state the obvious...

AT&T Brings Down Prepaid Smartphone Plan Price
AT&T dropped its smartphone plan from $75 to $65 for unlimited voice, text, and 1GB of data.  While it's better than Verizon's $80 plan, it's still not very competitive with the rest of the market, though certainly an important step closer to being in the realm of reasonable.  Other prepaid carriers still offer more data for the same or lower price, however, as the market in general has started to veer away from unlimited data on smartphones (even on plans dubbed unlimited), AT&T is now within the stratosphere, which is a good thing.

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