By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Competition continued to heat up in unlimited-use prepaid calling plans as the economy cooled.
Nationwide prepaid provider Page Plus Cellular of Holland, Ohio, launched a $39.95/month unlimited-use plan that includes unlimited voice and text messaging and 20MB of data for phone-based Web browsing, email and over-the-air application downloads. The company called it the “lowest-priced plan of its kind in the prepaid wireless market.”
Page Plus previously offered an Unlimited 24/7 plan at either $2.49 or $1.99 per day with $20 activation. The carrier sells through its Web site and indirect retailers, including Circle K stores.
The Page Plus announcement followed the launch by Leap Wireless, MetroPCS and TracFone Wireless of sweetened unlimited-use plans.
On Aug. 4, San Diego-based Leap upgraded unlimited-use plans in select Cricket-branded markets with a population of about 72.3 million people out of the total 91 million people reached by the carrier's network. To its $40/month unlimited-use plan, the carrier added unlimited Web access and unlimited 411. That plan already offered unlimited voice, long distance, domestic and international text, and picture messaging.
To its $45/month unlimited-use plan, Leap added those features plus unlimited email, unlimited data backup and 30 roaming minutes per month for use outside Leap's network. A $55/month plan offers the same features as the $45 plan but includes 200 roaming minutes.
To the new plans, Leap also threw in free roaming in its Premium Extended Calling area, which consists of 4,600 cities and towns serviced through roaming partners. The Premium calling area effectively extends the reach of Leap's network.
Previously, Tracfone Wireless launched its Straight Talk service, a $45 prepaid flat-rate calling and text-messaging plan. And MetroPCS announced feature additions to its $40 and $45/month unlimited-use plans. MetroPCS's $40 unlimited plan now includes unlimited talk, text and Web access, and a $45 plan adds unlimited email, navigation and social-networking applications. A $50 plan continues to offer smartphone customers HTML Web browsing and enterprise wireless email. To its $30 and $35 unlimited local-calling-only plans, MetroPCS added caller ID and call waiting.
Earlier this year, Sprint Nextel's Boost division launched a $50 unlimited plan that includes unlimited talk, messaging, Web and walkie-talkie service.
For its part, Leap sweetened the pot for dealers, not just consumers. Improved compensation plans to “further add to our competitive advantage” went into effect Aug. 4, a spokesman said without elaborating.
In other distribution developments, Leap said it plans to expand its Cricket-branded landline-replacement services into more national retail chains and into other channels not currently served. The company sells through company-owned stores, Cricket-branded stores owned by third parties, and indirect retailers, mainly independent wireless specialists. Some months ago, however, the carrier opened up sales of its PayGo service to Walmart and Dollar General stores in the 34 states where it offers service. PayGo enables consumers to prepay for cellphone service for a select number of days rather than prepay a month at a time.
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