The rise of Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS into the cellular Top 10 was based on a unique offering of "Unlimited" wireless service at a reasonable price. The top 4 carriers now offer their own flavor of Unlimited services, but they haven't matched the price. Rural areas of the US have not yet enjoyed the availability of a competitively-priced Unlimited service, until now.
In several areas of the country some very small carriers are offering low-priced Unlimited service that is perfect for replacing a home phone, supplying your kids with lots of talk time, or businesses with enough minutes to talk to customers. Most of the larger small carriers charge as much as the Top 4, with some limiting that coverage to their own service area. But there is a handful of small carriers that offer Unlimited service in the $10 to $40 range that provide a good alternative to the more expensive carriers.
We talked to Wayne Gibson, Vice President of Distribution for Commnet Wireless about their new Unlimited network, Choice Wireless. Choice is unfolding fixed-price service across the US, now serving rural parts of Nevada and New Mexico as well as the US Virgin Islands. Their focus is to offer something that is otherwise unavailable in these non-metro areas. Mr. Gibson noted that among the differences between Choice and competing MVNO's is that networks like Choice operate mostly on their own network and can control the quality for the user and fix problems at the neighborhood level.
They often add some roaming minutes for occasional travel into nearby cities. This contrasts with Unlimited offerings from slightly larger carriers like Viaero Wireless and Cincinnati Bell that only offer "National" unlimited plans at the same price level as the largest carriers. The smaller companies can appeal to local families who don't stray far from home very often, but still get service when they do.
Like the Alltel of old, we envy those residents who have a local network that can offer a product and service that is as familiar as your local pharmacist. Make sure you include them in your search for affordable wireless service. The opportunities are...Unlimited.