Sprint As You Go Unlimited Prepaid

by PrepaidWirelessGuy

In January 2013, Sprint announced that on the 25th of the month it would be launching its own Sprint As You Go prepaid brand. I have to say that “it’s about time!” I’ve been saying for years, even before Sprint bought Nextel (ok, they technical merged, however, in reality, it was a purchase), that Sprint should simply have their own prepaid offering. In my opinion, the prepaid market was just starting to gain interest (in 2003), and Boost hadn’t been in the market too long as a joint venture with Nextel (i.e. Nextel did not own Boost Mobile at the time). I felt that the money spent on building the Boost brand was a complete waste.

In reality, there was a pent up demand for prepaid Push-To-Talk (Nextel’s infamous walkie-talkie feature). Boost sales did extremely well, not because of any brand success per se, but rather because people wanted the walkie-talkie feature. However, they either didn’t qualify for the strict Nextel credit requirements, or they didn’t want a contract (for a number of reasons). A prepaid Nextel brand would have flourished just as much, if not more.

Anyway, Sprint later purchased Nextel and got Boost along with it. Their initial plan was to shut it down, however, its new unlimited offering was taking the market by storm and growth was tremendous. The “wait and see” strategy culminated in prepaid being such a massive growth engine for Sprint, that they purchased Virgin Mobile, and now are launching their own brand.

In reality, the cost of managing both Boost and Virgin likely doesn’t have a respectable business case. The fact is that people don’t really care about the brand per se.
We want a good phone selection, and good value on the plan pricing. Do we care whether it’s Boost, Virgin, or Sprint? No! In fact, Sprint arguably has always been a stronger brand that Boost and Virgin. The issue that Sprint is no doubt having at this point is that prepaid is so valuable to the company that they don’t want to disrupt that cash flow by jumping in with a Sprint As You Go prepaid brand too aggressively.

That’s my theory as to why they are launching with a limited (and wholly uninspiring) phone selection, and price points that are also pretty pathetic. It will be interesting to see how they do. If it’s successful, that would be really telling. In other words, seeing strong gross adds (i.e. new subscribers) with such a pathetic handset and plan selection, would tell them that they should push ahead. However, if the take rate is lack luster, that doesn’t necessarily tell them it’s a failure (again, due to the pathetic phones and plans).

The company speaks of not throttling customers on its new Sprint As You Go program after 2.5GB that was instituted in January 2013 with both Boost and Virgin. A current unknown is whether the Sprint brand will allow access to Sprint roaming partners. The other Sprint prepaid brands, including MVNOs, don’t have access to those partners, meaning that network coverage is not as good as their postpaid business. This has remained one of the only remaining benefits of being on a contract plan with them.

So, time will tell how this plays out, and rest assured that I will be keeping on top of it, and reporting back here!

Comments for Sprint As You Go Unlimited Prepaid

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Jan 27, 2013
Sprint As You Go - Nothing Close To Prepaid NEW
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

So after doing additional research on their site, as well as visiting a Sprint store, I now have a much better understanding of this offer. It's nothing more than a limited number of plans and phones off contract.

What I mean by this is that while most of the major postpaid carriers have always allowed customers to pay full price for any phone and avoid signing a contract, this is not the case with Sprint postpaid. Even if you pay full price for a phone, you are required to sign a 2-year contract. This makes absolutely no sense, as the whole point of a contract is to allow carriers to recoup the cost of selling subsidized phones. If you're paying full price for a phone, requiring a contract is just short of insane thinking.

Aside from avoiding having to sign a contract, another great value of prepaid wireless is that you never have to worry about overages. You can't run up a balance, or spend more than what you've put on your prepaid account balance, or have purchased at a given point. With Sprint As You Go, you can accumulate a balance. What they have done, however, is limit that balance to a maximum of $125. i.e. At any given point of time, you can amass a $125 overage charge; that's not prepaid!

In addition, most prepaid plans nowadays have a floating bill cycle, which means that if you miss your monthly payment date (for those on monthly/unlimited plans), you simply lose service until you pay. Once you pay, you get a another 30 days of service; it's simple, easy, and flexible.

So, at this point, I'm officially declaring that this program is not worthy of the prepaid wireless label, and, as a result, will not be included in any of the prepaid comparison tables.

I do expect that if/when Sprint expands the available phone options, they will get some traction, particularly from people who don't truly understand prepaid, and what it has to offer beyond just not having a contract. For now, however, there's really nothing notable to report on, and Boost and Virgin are so different, they're not about to be displaced anytime soon.

That said, I think that Sprint should launch a true prepaid program under the Sprint brand, and do a real test of the brand value of Virgin and Boost. Of course, that would put a lot of marketers at risk of losing their jobs, so politically, making such a move is unlikely to happen for years to come.

Jan 25, 2013
Launch Day!
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

Just a quick note that Sprint officially launched its no contract Sprint As You Go offer today. Let us know what you think!

Jan 10, 2013
Not So Fast!
by: Anonymous

While I agree with much of what you said, I think even 3-5 years is way too short to see the Virgin and Boost brands terminated.

Having worked at Sprint, I can tell you that they will argue all day long trying to convince people that Virgin and Boost target different demographics, and hence are worth keeping.

Personally, I think that's total BS. They've had different distribution historically, however, they're trying to blend that together to gain inefficiencies in terms of operations. It's very confusing for customers, and they artificially differentiate the brands by the phones and plans they offer. In other words, it's not about brand value, but about the difference in the offers.

It makes sense that that right thing to do is to consolidate all Sprint controlled prepaid brands under Sprint As You Go, however, it's going to take a small act of God to actually see that happen. This is largely due to the arrogance of Marketers, who often can't prove that what they do is effective.

As you said, people want great phones and even better plan value. What logo is on the phone really doesn't matter at the end of the day. To admit that puts a lot of people's jobs at risk in Marketing and Sales, Creative/Brand departments, etc. Seeing that paradigm shift to do what makes real world sense simply isn't human nature!

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