Could carriers aim to imitate the Cricket/MetroPCS model?

Wall Street Journal report (via FierceWireless), is to replace minute-limited plans with a single unlimited tier. If that sounds familiar, it’s because many prepaid carriers currently employ the same tactic when it comes to voice. Of course, it’s not as though we can expect carriers to bring their prices down to Cricket and MetroPCS levels. Not only are there qualitative differences between those services and the Big Four, but there’s also the matter of subsidies. Since Cricket and MetroPCS customers pay full price for their phone and get no subsidy, they don’t have to pay back part of that subsidy every month. Postpaid carriers provide customers with a discount, recouping that money via guaranteed monthly payments. That is, there’s a subsidy cost already built into every postpaid plan. Since this move comes at a time when carriers are scrambling to keep voice revenues rolling in, chances are they’ll simply charge more for offering the same service. That is, so many people who use Verizon’s 450-minute plan don’t come close to their minute limits. If Verizon does move to an unlimited-only scheme, they’ll almost certainly be paying more than their current $40 per month, while getting no actual upgrade in service. The beauty of Cricket, MetroPCS, and other unlimited prepaid carriers is that you’re not necessarily paying a whole ton for your voice services. You still have unlimited messaging and (limited) unlimited data, so your money does go to services that are more valuable to you. In fact, if big carriers do switch to an unlimited scheme, prepaid carriers would do well to respond by putting a greater emphasis on data. It could be costly, since they have limited resources. But at a time where carriers are making a money grab, prepaid carriers could find great opportunities by looking forward. ]]>

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