Pre-Paid Mobile Catches On In the U.S.

When looking at the mobile markets in the US and most parts of the world, there has been one major glaring difference.’a0 Whereas most consumers outside the United States utilize mobile service on a pre-paid or contract free basis, we in the United States have operated under under a post-paid model.’a0 That is, in the US, we prefer to be under extended contracts and service agreements with mobile network operators.

If activity in the blogosphere and pre-paid mobile network operator financial results are indication, this tide might be changing. Whether caused by growing disdain for high monthly cellular service costs, the sagging economy, or a combination of the two, more Americans are turning to pre-paid and contract-free mobile phone service.

What does the pre-paid market offer us here in the U.S.?’a0 For the most part, prepaid customers enjoy a flat monthly fee for unlimited minutes, texts, and mobile web access.’a0 For example, Cricket offers a plan for $40/month that includes unlimited services for those who subscribe to it.’a0 The other major players in the pre-paid US market include Boost Mobile, Virgin America, and MetroPCS.

For comparison, if you were to sign up with one of the major dominant players in the US market such as AT&T or Verizon Wireless, you’d be looking at around $130-$150 for unlimited services.’a0 Granted, those who sign up for Cricket or MetroPCS don’t have the broad nationwide network that T-Mobile, AT&T or Sprint offer, but customers who choose these lower cost carriers rarely travel outside of the geographic area served by them.’a0 Although, these customers can buy reasonably priced roaming service when they need to travel out of their home areas.

Recently, some prominent bloggers have been attracted to the pre-paid market, including GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham.’a0 Aside from Stacey, Cricket and the other carriers are attracting those who want simplicity in their monthly bills and are driven to save money on their wireless bills.’a0 Apparently these folks are not alone – as Virgin Mobile reported today that they recently had a record breaking quarter, hot off the heels of coming out with a $49.99 unlimited plan.

Also, for those looking for mobile data access, Cricket offers a mobile EVDO data service for $40/month.’a0 This is 1/3 less than similar service offered by Verizon Wireless and Sprint.’a0 Also, Cricket’s data service comes contract free, unlike their bigger competitors that demand a 24 month contract for their over-priced data service.

As you can see, pre-paid has a high degree of upward growth potential as US customers evaluate their monthly expenses and realize they’re paying too much for mobile phone access.

(photo credit: Flickr user playerx)