We Help You Decide: Multimedia Services

This is a We Help You Decide where the big boys will dominate. Because multimedia is such a big money for the big telecoms, they can afford to offer access to prepaid customers. After all, what's the harm? So while we don't like saying “oh, use INpulse prepaid,” if you want multimedia it might be the best option. Or it might not. That's what we're exploring here.
And we're not talking ringtones, either. To qualify for entry here, a company has to have the whole gamut: video, audio, and games. So let's not waste any time!
(read the review) Their Axcess shop is quite nifty, offering a wide range of audio and video feeds, and games. They've partnered with NBC to provide you video from the network, which really boost the value of their service. You might not be able to find everything you want here, but it's at least something. The cost is $20 per month, which sets you up for streaming video and and audio, and gives you unlimited messaging, which is nice if you don't already have it through their “pay by day” plan.
(read the review) Of course AT&T has streaming video, audio, and games. It's basically along the same lines as Alltel, charging you $20 per month for use of its MediaNet service, which is a bit more comprehensive than Alltel's, but not by much. Still, you're going to find one of the best overall multimedia selections here, and the price is at least competitive.
(read the review) Boost Mobile has games, and they have music — though it's really only ringtones. Unfortunately, they're completely deficient in the streaming video department, which is probably the most important for this week's We Help You Decide. We figure Boost's video will start popping up as Sprint enhances its own content. But until then, Boost makes this list just so we can say they have everything but videos.
(read the review) We hate to do this. But, reluctantly: Verizon has the best multimedia selection, in our opinion. Their VCast service is top notch, offering streaming video of almost anything you're looking for. It's especially good for sports fans, as Verizon has more streaming sports than any other carrier. We've noted before, though, that we don't like their pay-as-you-go service and the access fee. That doesn't take away from the multimedia service, though.
The Verdict: It's a pretty sparse list
Wow. A whole four providers made the list, and of of them didn't even meet the criteria. So it looks like the prepaid industry has strides to make in the multimedia department. That makes sense, though, as the major carriers are essentially just wading in the pools of multimedia.
The big surprise was the lack of video from Boost, which is owned by Sprint, and T-Mobile. Sprint offers streaming video to its contract customers, so we're perplexed at the lack of video with Boost. T-Mobile doesn't really have streaming video and audio services, though we figure they'll try to play catchup in the near future.
Another surprise was Virgin Mobile, who would presumably benefit greatly from streaming video. Their target demographic — teens and 20-somethings — are the ones who consume the most multimedia, so the quicker they have their own streaming video services, the better.
The problem is that with MVNOs, that might never be possible. They lease a certain amount of bandwidth from the major carriers, and they want to use that bandwidth for voice accounts. If they added multimedia, they would either have to lessen their number of voice customers, which is unlikely, or buy more bandwidth from the carrier, which is even less likely. Typically, major carriers won't sell something to an MVNO that will allow them to become a greater competitor.
We did like what we saw from AT&T, Alltel, and Verizon, though. It seems we read news on a weekly basis about them adding new multimedia features to their comprehensive list of services. This is all fine and good, but it really highlights the infancy of these features on phones. We bet if we do something like this a year from now, we'd have double the number of carriers on the list.