Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The New Direction of Prepaid

We fully expected prepaid wireless to become mainstream instead of the domain of the credit-challenged.  Some carriers are already 'prepaid-only' and recent economic struggles brought a large number of users to the prepaid arena mostly due to the lower price.  Now prepaid has taken a turn which has sparked some serious changes.

A few years ago we saw prepaid wireless customers paying for their service 'by the minute' instead of by the month.  We responded with the web sites, "WirelessBytheMinute.com" and "CellularBytheMinute.com".  Today customers aren't buying prepaid wireless as much by the minute, but more in blocks of unlimited minutes or in bites of megabytes.  Instead of paying as we go, we're still paying by the month, just without contracts.

The larger carriers have stepped up with their own improved prepaid offers or whole new prepaid programs.  AT&T has expanded beyond their GoPhone to their newest "Aio Wireless" (AIO = "All In One", pronounced "A-O)"), which sells the same thing as GoPhone with a different price structure, more like the unlimited plans started by T-Mobile and Straight Talk.  Verizon Wireless has improved their prepaid offers but has chosen not to branch off with a different name.  T-Mobile has introduced "GoSmart" as their prepaid specialty but they have also introduced a level of confusion by dropping the contract requirements for their regular cellular service as well as taking on, and expanding, another prepaid brand, MetroPCS.  T-Mobile also still has their old Prepaid brand.

Sprint now has their own prepaid brand as well as Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile prepaid services.  The other top prepaid supplier is American Movil who is making subtle changes to their Prepaid products.  For the most part they are separating which carriers will offer "Unlimited" and which ones will offer "Value."  We're also finding their Net10 and StraightTalk services are depending more on T-Mobile's network than AT&T.  For some reason, Cricket has taken a low profile. They may be the next to evolve...or go extinct.

We have also responded by shifting all of our "ByTheMinute" web sites over to "MountainPrepaid.com" to reflect the Prepaid nature of this evolution instead of pay-as-you-go.  We still offer our exclusive Discount Prepaid Refills.  There are still opportunities for the light user and we can help you find them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

MetroPCS Evolves

MetroPCS and T-Mobile have merged.  That's not news.  What happens next is going to be important.  T-Mobile becomes a much stronger carrier after gaining significant spectrum as a gift from the failed AT&T acquisition, and spectrum brought to the table with the MetroPCS merger.  Not only does T-Mobile get more spectrum, they get it in the largest markets and they get it contiguous to their existing spectrum.  This a powerful combination.  T-Mobile has become a contender, at least technically.

MetroPCS is now supposed to become a nationally-available prepaid service which will be operating on those new T-Mobile frequencies.  MetroPCS will continue to use their old CDMA network for the next couple of years which depends heavily on roaming partners to achieve nationwide coverage.  But now who needs MetroPCS?  Analysts suggest it might focus on the low end of the market, potentially the "credit-challenged."  But so does T-Mobile's own Prepaid and fledgling GoSmart Mobile.

Like Sprint's purchase of Nextel, the MetroPCS name may disappear.  Remember, most of the country has never heard of MetroPCS.  Unlike Nextel, MetroPCS comes with a hefty dowry of spectrum, so the name may not hold much value.  Are either "Metro" or "PCS" even relevant terms these days?  We will maintain it as a separate brand among our wireless network reports and coverage maps, but if MetroPCS becomes no more than a mirror image of T-Mobile Prepaid it may end up on our Wireless Archives page or among Alternative Networks.  With so much spectrum to work with we hope they find their niche.