The big wireless operators have shown more interest in pre-paid in a bid to woo the lower end of the market. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. have upped their marketing and deals for price-sensitive users, and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless are even starting to pay more attention to the low end as the high-end starts to reach saturation. (See Q1 Scorecard: Wireless Operators Square Off on Data, T-Mobile Trashes Device Subsidies and T-Mobile: How Low Can It Go?)
For example, Verizon, traditionally a pre-paid holdout, on Tuesday began offering a $80 pre-paid plan for 1GB of data on the Samsung Corp. Illusion, as well as three pre-paid plans ranging from $15 for 250MB of Long Term Evolution (LTE) data per week, to $90 for 10GB of monthly data on the Novatel Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: NVTL) MiFi. (See Verizon Unveils New Prepaid Plans.)
Verizon subsidiary Alltel also teamed up with regional operator U.S. Cellular Corp. (NYSE: USM) this week to offer pre-paid plans at Wal-Mart stores in 18 states. (See U.S. Cellular, Alltel Offer Prepaid Wireless in Walmarts.)
More action in the contract-free space is good news for consumers looking for more alternatives, but if the big guys make more aggressive plays, it could continue to hurt the smaller guys that once owned the space.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile