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Is there room for another unlimited MVNO?

During the past few weeks we saw a number of prepaid carriers revamp their plans. This caters to a growing segment of the market that wants simple plans with predictable costs. Many carriers, including T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile, went the unlimited route, providing their customers with flat-rate, unlimited services. Others, including PlatinumTel and Sprint subsidiary Common Cents, chose a pay-as-you-go option that features consistent rates. In other words, there’s no adjusting for different times of day. The rate is the rate is the rate. Best of all, the rate beats most of what else is out there. This has made me wonder if there is room for any more prepaid carriers.

In terms of general consumption services, I’m not sure a new service would find much success. Carriers have been competing on price lately — not only the end dollar amount, but also a simpler price structure. Sprint went to extremes on the latter front, dividing their prepaid portfolio into three carriers. Along with the other general pay-as-you-go or flat-rate unlimited plans on the market, I’m not sure there’s room for one more unless it could lower prices even further. At this point I’m not sure that’s possible. Even then, Straight Talk and Page Plus have the low-cost thing pretty well wrapped up.

There just comes a point where a company can’t reasonably provide a certain level of service at a certain price point. I’ve heard hundreds of complaints about both Straight Talk and Page Plus during the past few months. It seems that even at their price point, providing an adequate level of support is difficult. If you want a long, nuanced take on this, check out Clay Shirky’s latest.

The only place for new entrants is through niche markets. This is where carriers like Total Call Mobile and Red Pocket Mobile come into play. They serve small, specific markets. We discussed this very issue at The Prepaid Press Expo last year. It seems to be even more relevant now. The big, broad markets have big-time players. Not only have MVNOs filled that space, but the major carriers, too, are jockeying for position.