Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lifeline Program Q&A with Issa Asad

The Lifeline program has been around since the 1980s and in recent years has shifted to providing wireless service to low income families. The program is still surrounded by much misinformation and confusion. In this video telecom expert Issa Asad answers the most common questions regarding the program.

Prepaid Cell Phones: Know Your Options

The list of prepaid cell phone companies is long and constantly changing. Because the wireless industry is fast-paced and aggressive, it's important to stay informed about the various options.
This is a fiercely competitive industry. That's a good thing for consumers. It allows for value and choice!
Prepaid wireless companies compete by continuously raising the standard in expectations for services, plans and devices.

Prepaid cell phone companies fall into three categories:

1. All the National Carriers offer no-contract options of some sort. The advantage of using a national carrier is the coast-to-coast coverage. You'll get the same level of service coverage as post-paid customers.

2. Another viable option is a Regional Carrier. These carriers are commonly known for good service and often ranks high in customer service. They offer similar services that sometimes match or even beat the national carriers on overall value.
It's interesting to note that a regional provider may not be for all users. These providers can be geographically limited and may not work for people who travel a lot. It can be expensive when traveling throughout the country or even from state to state. Fortunately some regional companies now offer nationwide coverage by having roaming agreements with national carriers.

  • Alltel U
  • US Cellular
  • Cricket
  • MetroPCS

3. Now we come to what are referred to as MVNOs. MVNO is an acronym for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. This is a wireless provider that operates on the network platform of a larger MNO(Mobile Network Operator). AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are examples of MNOs.
This type of prepaid wireless company purchases minutes on a wholesale basis from the larger companies and then resell them under its own name.

Sprint Prepaid Phones and Plans

Sprint prepaid phones and plans differ from the offerings of other the major cell phone carriers. In fact, technically speaking, there is no such thing as a "Sprint prepaid cell phone plan".
Unlike AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, Sprint does not use its own branding for prepaid and no-contract services.
Even though Sprint does not offer prepaid wireless as such, their network is the most widely used MNO for prepaid cell phone service.

In May of 2010, Sprint formed a division known as the Sprint Prepaid Group. This division provides prepaid cell phone services under the brand names of
  • Assurance Wireless-Supported by the Lifeline Assistance Program
  • Boost Mobile-Acquired in 2006
  • Virgin Mobile-Acquired in 2009

In my research I found a surprising number of prepaid carriers that use the Sprint Network. They purchase capacity on a whole sale basis and and resell it under their own brand name.

The Sprint network is used by the most number of MVNOs. The following is a list of popular MVNOs that use the Sprint platform:

  • Airlink Mobile
  • Boost Mobile
  • iWireless(Kroger)
  • Liberty Wireless
  • Platinum Tel
  • Prepayd
  • Republic Wireless
  • STI Mobile
  • Straight Talk(Android Smartphones)
  • Ting
  • Total Call Mobile
  • Virgin Mobile USA

Keep in mind that the coverage with the Sprint subsidiaries and the MVNOs vary. Even though they operate on the Sprint Network they might not necessarily have the exact coverage. The individual companies may have different roaming agreements in place.

For instance, Virgin Mobile does not have coverage in my rural hometown, but Sprint does. Just be sure to check out the coverage map for the individual company that you are considering.