- 700 MHz spectrum
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- Cell Accessories
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- Consumer Issues
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J.D. Power and Associates, the company which rates other companies, has released a new survey regarding the prepaid wireless industry. As always, they rate these services based on six factors which they think most important to wireless consumer satisfaction (performance and reliability, cost of service, account management, initial activation, offerings and promotions, and customer service). Topping this list this year was Net10, which was included in the survey for the first time. Quite a strong debut indeed. They put up a score of 774 out of 1,000. Ranking two through six, in order, were Tracfone, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Alltel, and T-Mobile. All of these ranked above industry average, while the others were apparently left in the dust. The survey also had some findings about prepaid in general.
July 10th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | 4 Comments
The phrase “price war” has been bandied about for the past week or so, on the heel’s of the new unlimited voice and text plan from Straight Talk. We even saw that affect the stocks of a few prepaid carriers earlier in the week, though the market appears to have corrected itself. There might not be a price war after all. In fact, according to Sue Marek of FierceWireless, it’s not very likely. In a well-reasoned and sourced post, Marek takes down the claims which struck fear in the hearts of carriers earlier in the week.
July 8th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | 2 Comments
It really is an unlimited plan kind of week. On Monday we heard of a $45 unlimited plan from Straight Talk and a $50 unlimited plan from kajeet. The newest offer comes from Ready Mobile, though it’s not exactly like the normal brand of unlimited plans we’ve seen from many carriers. Instead it works on a three-day or seven-day basis. Plan details after the jump.
July 7th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
Toward the end of June we saw a marketing push for Zer01, a carrier boasting unlimited voice, text, and data — including smartphone data — for $80 per month with no commitment. If it sounds too good to be true, well, for now it is. Despite a PC Magazine article from March implying that Zer01 is an MVNO of the AT&T network. While Zer01 will use the AT&T network in some fashion, it appears they won’t technically be an MVNO. They still don’t have distribution, so you can’t yet take advantage of their service.
July 2nd, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
Just a few notes before we head into the July Fourth weekend:
Zer01 is officially open for business. We talked about Zer01 last week in anticipation of their launch. There’s a huge marketing blitz, including the misconception that they’re somehow going to provide “5G” speeds over AT&T’s data network. If anyone plans to sign up for this plan, please hit me — editor at prepaidreviews — and let me know how it goes.
June 26th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
Two storylines have emerged in the U.S. wireless industry in the wake of its first quarter. First is that prepaid accounted for the majority of total subscriber adds. Second is that it marked the lowest growth period ever. It’s this second one we’ve left mostly unexplored on Prepaid Reviews. That’s because there was a simple narrative to explain the prepaid growth: with the economy slumping, people are looking to more cost effective communications solutions. However, the second story gives some pause to that. After all, we’ve heard something in the past regarding prepaid adds once U.S. penetration reaches 100 percent.
June 22nd, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
One disadvantage of being a smaller carrier is being reliant upon larger carriers for roaming access. After all, a regional carrier isn’t going to have a national footprint, so in order to provide better coverage to their subscribers they have to seek roaming agreements with other, larger carriers. Normally this isn’t a problem. Carriers have pretty standard agreements when it comes to smaller carriers roaming. There is an exception, however, when smaller carriers own licenses in a particular market, but have not yet built out a network. Monica Alleven of Wireless Week breaks down the situation as it pertains to Cricket wireless.
June 16th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
As we’ve been talking about for over a year now, the state of the U.S. economy might naturally lead some to prepaid wireless services. They present a viable alternative to expensive contract plans which not only lock you into two-year terms, but also end up forcing you to not use your plan to the fullest (lest you go over your minutes and spend even more money). We know that prepaid wireless played a big part in American mobile services in the first quarter. There are signs, too, that this could continue. Web analysts comScore found that traffic to six prepaid carrier websites was up big time during the first quarter.
June 4th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
This morning we looked at the impressive number of prepaid adds in the first quarter of 2009. We also asked the question of whether this is a long-term thing, or just a temporary refuge while the American economy remains unstable. If we’re to believe Roger Linquist, CEO of MetroPCS and Neil Lindsay, CMO of Boost Mobile, this is no blip on the radar. Instead, it’s Americans waking up and realizing that they don’t have to pay so much for cellular service. Both companies offer unlimited calling plans for $50 per month, which have become a haven for cost-cutting consumers.
June 4th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
Once the outcast of the wireless world, prepaid has moved into a more prominent position. Carriers like Boost Mobile and MetroPCS saw enormous gains in the first quarter. They were far from the only ones. This makes sense, at least intuitively. The U.S. economy isn’t doing so hot and people are looking for ways to save on their monthly phone bills. This has led some to wonder whether prepaid growth is an illusion. That’s not a question with an answer right now. What’s for certain, though, is that prepaid fueled wireless industry growth in the first quarter. To what extent? According to a report from IDC, prepaid accounted for 75 percent of U.S. wireless adds.
February 23rd, 2009 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
It’s not just the Associated Press raving about prepaid wireless. I’ve honestly seen the topic of prepaid tied into the recession — netting an article about frugality — come across my reader and alerts multiple times per day for the past week. So why not kick off the new week with another one? This comes from Jenna Wortham of the New York Times. She notes how much greater prepaid grew in 2008 than postpaid, a topic we’ll surely hear more of as 2009 progresses.
February 19th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
The Associated Press. They’re everywhere. Seriously, when you read something in a major newspaper, there’s a decent chance it originated with the AP. In checking my email alerts today, I noticed that two article titles came up multiple times: “Prepaid cell phones help dial up lower costs,” and “5 things to know about prepaid phones.” The first one talks about a man who reduced his cell phone bill from $120 per month to $160 total over five months, and then has all the basic quotes on prepaid (e.g. paying for only the minutes you use). The second is a reminder of prepaid services, noting both the ups and downs. These are some good reads if you’re considering a switch to prepaid.
February 16th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
We’ve been talking about the rise of prepaid for nearly a year now. At this time last year, though the government denied tooth and nail, the U.S. economy was in recession. It hadn’t hit full on yet, but the signs were still there. This article appeared 10 months ago, and it is appropriately titled. The idea is starting to catch on. I see numerous mainstream media reports daily talking about the advantages of prepaid. Now the industry rag, RCR Wireless News, is putting a bit more emphasis on it. The latest is a Dan Meyer column in which he chronicles the postpaid nature of America, and how prepaid could be seeing a big boost in the near future.
February 10th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
The University of Vermont wants to eliminate landlines from dorms for the 2009-2010 school year. That makes sense. They’re becoming increasingly obsolete, and the university could save some money by tossing them, and their long distance rates, out the window. Yet some students — just 4 percent at UVM — do not have cell phones. What about them? There is one proposal on the table which readers here might find interesting: allowing students to sign out a prepaid cell phone for a certain period of time.
January 13th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
In the later part of last year, we discussed the coming of a prepaid BlackBerry solution. Now it seems that plan is moving forward. Via BlackBerry Cool we learn that the BlackBerry Pearl on a pay as you go basis is “coming soon.” Is it only a matter of time before it hits the U.S.?
January 8th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | 2 Comments
Wireless carriers were onto something in 2008, namely the unlimited calling plan. This had been the bread and butter of regional carriers Metro PCS and Cricket wireless, and the major carriers finally decided to jump in. All four set theirs at $99/month, though T-Mobile added unlimited texting and Sprint added unlimited everything. A few prepaid carriers jumped on the bandwagon, with Virgin Mobile adding its own unlimited calling package, as well as Net10. And what do you know? A survey later in the year revealed that unlimited subscribers were more satisfied with their service than those on per-minute or per-month limits. The question we’re always trying to answer is, why?
January 7th, 2009 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
inCode, a firm focused on telecom consulting and enterprise mobile and wireless solutions, has released 10 telecom predictions for the new year. Since a number of them relate to the prepaid sector, we’ll go over those. In summary, it could be a good year to be on one end of the wireless spectrum. The guys in the middle could get eaten up in this economic environment.
December 26th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
One of the themes we’ve discussed over the past six, eight, ten months at Prepaid Reviews has been the prepaid advantage in economic downtimes. We’ve seen signs, like T-Mobile adding more prepaid subscribers than postpaid in the third quarter. The latest involves MetroPCS and Leap Wireless. They’ve seen some significant stock gains in the past month or so, indicating investor confidence in the flat-rate, unlimited calling prepaid companies.
December 17th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
I feel like every post over the past few weeks could be prefaced with “in these tough economic times.” It seems to be the theme running throughout the prepaid industry. We’ve seen that consumers are already turning to prepaid options, and that activity figures to increase over time, as people’s contracts will run out. A new player will join the game, bringing flat-rate, unlimited calling plans. That’s Smart PCS, a regional carrier covering parts of Georgia and Tennessee. It’s a small operation, of course, but it could be a viable option for people in that area.
December 15th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
We spend the bulk of last week asking and answering questions about prepaid wireless. Something else these articles illustrate is the increased focus on prepaid wireless in the media. It’s a good story in these times. So are people reacting? It seems so. Cricket wireless and Boost Mobile are two companies who have seen an an uptick in customer activity in recent months.
December 10th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
We’ve been hit with a flurry of information of late that espouses the virtues of prepaid wireless. Yesterday we discussed the myths of prepaid wireless. Today we’re going to look at the other side: why you should choose prepaid wireless. That’s a link to our own list. Stacey Higginbotham over at GigaOM has listed her own reasons for going prepaid.
December 9th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Opinion Research Center: far more people than are currently using prepaid are good candidates for no-contract service. From the figures I’ve seen, between 15 and 17 percent of U.S. cellular subscribers are on prepaid. This survey suggests that 30 percent of users might do better on prepaid. This makes a bit of sense. Prepaid does get a bad rap for being an entity for those who can’t obtain credit, or those who can’t afford a postpaid plan. Yet, prepaid has evolved over the past few years into something that can be economically viable for a far larger number of people.
November 26th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 3 Comments
When you think of flat-rate, unlimited calling plans, you probably first think of Metro PCS, Cricket wireless, and even Boost Unlimited. There are a few others out there, some of which will get a spot on Prepaid Reviews in the coming month. One of these is Pocket Communications. They’ve just received some good news in the form of $100 million in venture funding. This will allow the company, based in South Texas, to reach out to the Northeast, including areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts.
November 26th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
No, I’m not taking about AT&T GoPhone. I’m talking about glowPhone, a service from Firefly Mobile. They’re gearing up for the holidays with offerings for your young’uns. If your five- to eight-year old is in need of a cell, Firefly has a solution. Starting December 1, they are offering special rates to new customers. This includes 25 minutes for $9.99, or 150 minutes for $19.99. How the economics behind that works I have no idea. Twice the price for six times the minutes! It doesn’t stop there, though. They’ll also offer deals on phones.
November 21st, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 4 Comments
While the masses might be flocking to Best Buy today to pick up the BlackBerry Storm, cost-savvy customers might go for other reasons. For instance, what about the low-cost options from O2 Wireless from Locus Telecommunications. Their services are now available at 1,150 Best Buy locations and on BestBuy.com. This includes not only the O2 Wireless services, but the O2 Wireles Universal SIMCard, which allows customers to bring their unlocked GSM phones for service with O2.
November 7th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
It was barely a month ago that we first heard about MetroPCs and Leap Wireless collaborating on a roaming agreement. While the carriers are technically rivals — they offer similar services and don’t overlap in many markets — they can both benefit greatly from this agreement. The knock on each company is a limited coverage map. Combined, however, they create a more full network which nearly covers the nation’s major markets. Hence all of those merger rumors from a year ago. The two companies plan to launch their roaming services next week, according to the Associated Press.
November 5th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 4 Comments
A few weeks back I asked whether T-Mobile should offer the BlackBerry Pearl flip on prepaid. It seems like a good idea, since it can help both T-Mobile and Research In Motion target a younger demographic. According to Boy Genius Report, that might becoming a reality. Not just with T-Mobile and the Pearl, though. It appears that the company is planning to launch a fairly aggressive prepaid campaign in 2009. They’ll try to target prepaid users with arguments similar to our reasons for choosing prepaid cellular.
October 28th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
I mentioned this yesterday in the Twitter feed (hey! follow us!), but for a different purpose. The point of this MSNBC article is to discuss prepaid BlackBerrys and smartphones. They talk about T-Mobile’s FlexPay and how it creates a real prepaid option for these devices. Buried in the article, though, we get numbers that aren’t readily available: prepaid subscriber numbers for the major carriers. Yeah, sometimes we’ll see a figure for Boost Mobile when Sprint makes their report, but rare is it that we see anything on Verizon INpulse. So let’s take a look at where they stand.
October 23rd, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
One prepaid company making some waves over the past few months is O2 Wireless, part of Locus Telecommunications. In September, we learned that they’d gained distribution at Family Dollar. Their latest movement is into Fred’s Discount Stores, which has 600 locations in the South, Southwest, and Midwest regions. This is in addition to other distribution deals, including ones with Debisys, Blackstone, and Magic Pins.
October 22nd, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 2 Comments
A writer, no matter what he’s writing, always strives for a strong opening. Allie Winter of RCR News accomplishes that in her column yesterday: “Once considered the red-headed stepchild of wireless, prepaid services are finally gaining mainstream appeal…” She talks about new offerings from prepaid carriers, notably from Boost Mobile and Cricket wireless which broaden the carriers’ appeal into new demographics. It’s all part of the reason why prepaid growth is outpacing postpaid growth.
October 16th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 2 Comments
The state of prepaid wireless in the United States can be a bit frustrating. There aren’t a whole ton of options, and the ones we do have all contain flaws. Plus, customer service, especially from the larger carriers, don’t seem to give a hoot. When we look outside the country, though, we can see bigger things. Informa Telecoms & Media has found that prepaid has grown faster than postpaid from 2007 to 2008. Not only that, but the report claims that prepaid is growing twice as fast.
October 15th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 22 Comments
Over the past week and half or so, we’ve two of our pay as you go cell phone providers add new options to their plan lineups. The first came from Cricket wireless, which introduced its daily pay as you go plans. Last week, Boost Mobile came in with their own, which provides minutes at 10 cents all day, every day. Let’s take this opportunity to determine how these new plans stack up against one another.
September 24th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
What is the future platform of mobile communication? If you ask the two largest carriers in America, the answer would be LTE as a fourth generation solution. Both AT&T and Verizon plan to use their 700 MHz auction holdings to upgrade their networks to the GSM-based technology. This is a big step for Verizon, which currently uses a CDMA network. Sprint is all WiMAX, which could be a gamble if other carriers choose LTE. Speaking of which, what are the other carriers thinking? Allie Winter of RCR News takes a look at regional carriers’ and MVNOs’ plans for the next generation.
September 22nd, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
One trend you’ll continue hearing about for the next decade or so is the decline in use of landlines. Right now, 17 percent of homes are cell-only. Those are mostly of the younger crowd, who never had a landline through college, and see no reason to spend more money on one now. Metro PCS CEO Roger Linquist, speaking to a group of analysts, said that “wireless is a safe haven,” according to the AP.
September 12th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
We’ve talked about the universal service fund (USF) on Prepaid Reviews a few times in the past. This is mainly because a few of our pay as you go cell phone providers have taken advantage of it. In April Tracfone announced that it would use the USF in 10 states. Before that, US Cellular used the fund to move into West Virginia. Today we’re hearing, via RCR News, that rural wireless carriers have filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals to stay the recently-installed cap on the USF.
September 11th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 2 Comments
We are prepaid wireless nerds. We dissect popular pay as you go cell phone providers. We’ve even set up a way for consumers to compare prepaid plans. And then there’s this whole blog, which covers all we can find about the prepaid wireless industry. So it comes with great pleasure today to bring you our reasons why now is the time to go prepaid. We tout our top reasons to choose prepaid, but that’s more of a general statement. Today we discuss why now is a better time than ever.
August 27th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 2 Comments
We’ve exhaustively discussed the advantages of pay as you go cell phone services on this site. From cheaper overall costs to only paying for the minutes you use, there’s something for everyone in prepaid wireless. However, we’ve seen the industry face some challenges lately. Namely, the economic crunch that faces a number of US citizens. This in some ways can advantage the prepaid wireless industry, in that some families which formerly used postpaid cellular services might be more apt to save money with prepaid once their contract expires. It hurts in others, though, as lower income families might not have enough disposable income to justify owning a cell phone. This has hit carriers like Virgin Mobile USA, which has lost a number of subscribers over the past few quarters.
Clearly, the industry is due for a change. But how is that change going to manifest? This is a question directly addressed at last week’s Prepaid Press Expo. A number of folks within the industry, and in other industries, got together to talk about where we’re going with this.
August 21st, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
I should have mentioned this earlier, but this week I’m at the Prepaid Press Expo this week. Hence the spotty updates. Anyway, it has been nothing but an informative conference. Speakers from all around the prepaid realm have given us insight into the future of the industry. One topic, though, that I’d like to mention now, and which I’ll elaborate on later, is the convergence of prepaid wireless and stored value cards. The tone of this conference has me, along with just about everyone else here, thinking that the future successes in the prepaid realm will be those who integrate their prepaid wireless services with other prepaid services — such as money transfers, landline long distance, mobile banking services, etc. Basically, the idea is to give consumer value-added services which can tie directly into their prepaid cell phone service.
This will all become a lot more clear when I have more than a paragraph to flesh out the idea. I know we have a number of regular commenters, so I’d like to open up the forum. How do you, the prepaid users, see stored value cards enhancing your prepaid experience?
August 14th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
The growth rate for smaller market cellular operators is down for the quarter. This includes seven operators, including U.S. Cellular, Leap, MetroPCS, and four other regional carriers: Centennial, Qwest, Cincinnati Bell, and Ntelos. Combined, they’re up to 17 million subscribers, up from 15.09 at this time last year, representing a 12.7 percent growth. Last year, however, these carriers grew 16.3 percent. This number wasn’t held back by Metro or Leap, ranking two and three among the mentioned carriers, respectively. Metro grew 29.5 percent, and Leap 23.6 percent. Even they, though, have seen declining growth over the past year.
August 1st, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
J.D. Power and his associates don’t have the monopoly on consumer surveys. PC Magazine released their Readers’ Choice survey, so we can take a different look at what everyone thinks of pay as you go cell phone plans. Yes, they have an entire category dedicated to this. So let’s go to the survey:
July 28th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 3 Comments
We live in odd financial times. Some scream recession, while others claim it is overblown. Things certainly aren’t all smiles and sunshine, as the business catch phrase of the year has been “Flat is the new up.” As it pertains to the prepaid wireless industry, we’ve seen a few MVNOs drop out, and we’ve seen some poor growth numbers from strictly prepaid carriers. This might not be all that bad, though. According to telecom research firm Atlantic-ACM, we could see some huge growth from prepaid wireless in the next few years.
July 25th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
One day, two J.D. Power and Associates reports. This time, they’re looking at pay as you go phone services. So who has a better time with their prepaid services, per minute subscribers, or unlimited subscribers? It looks like unlimited takes it on this one. This is done on a 1,000 point scale, where unlimited beat per minute customers 764 to 717. The criteria is based on call quality, company image, cost of service, account management, initial activation, service plan options, and customer service — weighed in that order.
July 24th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 3 Comments
U.S. residents looking to make cheap international calls are starting to see a number of options pop up. We’ve seen Net10 offer a cheap international calling program, though only to limited countries. Total Call Mobile offers the same rates to the same countries as Net10, though expands their list to smaller, and thus more expensive, countries. Telestial, a travel communication company, has released a product called the SIMple Calling SIM card, which will allow users to make international calls from any GSM phone within the U.S.
July 18th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
A recent study conducted by PostOffice in the UK seems wholly appropriate, since I’ll be away for the weekend in an area where I’m 99 percent sure there will be no cell phone reception. Anyway, they looked at 2,163 adults, which is a decent sample size. Overall, they found that 58 percent of men and 48 percent of women “admitting to experiencing feelings of anxiety when they run out of battery or credit, lose their phone or have no network coverage.” Hopefully, I won’t have such an anxious feeling this weekend.
July 16th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
Last month the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications voted to impose a 50-cent tax on the purchase of all prepaid cell phones and prepaid minutes. This caused a stir within the Texas legislature, as a number of representatives came out vehemently against the plan. This opposition continued yesterday, as two state legislators asked the commission to repeal the tax.
July 7th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
Something we might start seeing as the U.S. mobile market penetration rate stagnates is an emphasis on regional carriers. While we might not see a new national carrier any time in the near future, regional carriers provide an alternative for those who don’t need the expensive, fancy plans of the big boys. This is what SouthernLINC hopes, at least. They’re offering a new prepaid plan, dubbed Prepaid Plus. They’re hoping it provides an affordable alternative for its potential subscribers in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
June 26th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
We’ve just added a new provider review, Total Call Mobile. They are a division of Total Call International, and as the name suggests, they specialize in international calling options. The target audience is a multi-cultural, ethnic demographic, especially those who have families overseas. To accommodate this, Total Call offers customer service in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, and Tagalog. Even though this is their specialty, there are plenty of advantages to be found with Total Call that can be used by the everyday cell subscriber.
June 12th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | 1 Comment
As I browsed through my prepaid wireless reading this week, I came across this article in the Time West Virginian. What a great idea the author had. He took three prepaid carriers — Virgin Mobile, Net10, and Tracfone — and tried to create a reasonable scenario for how much a family would have to pay over the course of a year with that service. I thought I’d try something similar, though in a more uniform fashion. We’ll set some guidelines and see how a select few carriers stack up.
June 10th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
So when will we see a mainstream prepaid BlackBerry Internet Service option in the U.S.? Hopefully soon, but hopefully I’ll soon be inheriting $10 million. Research In Motion has taken the experiment to Indonesia, though, and is offering a prepaid BlackBerry option for subscribers of Telkomsel. It works exactly as you’d expect of a prepaid BlackBerry. You activate the BIS through a text message, and it is cut off when you have insufficient funds.
May 8th, 2008 | Prepaid Services | No Comments
There was a time when the major carriers didn’t care much about their prepaid divisions. This is part of the reason carriers didn’t so much mind leasing wholesale minutes to MVNOs. They filled a niche that the nationwide carriers could not afford to focus on. Something happened last year, though. The big carriers started to take better care of their prepaid divisions. We’ve seen each of the Big Four improve their prepaid offerings. Combined with their nationwide coverage, this is helping them outshine the little guys.