Cricket Wireless shows how fast pre-paid is rapidly growing

Pre-paid wireless is changing and is becoming a rapidly growing sector for more customers. Let’s take a closer look at what services like AT&T Cricket Wireless and Verizon Visible are doing in this space now and what is coming next.

Cricket Wireless

I recently had a conversation with John Dwyer, the AT&T President who leads the AT&T Prepaid Portfolio that includes Cricket Wireless and AT&T PREPAID. He said Cricket just crossed the 10 million subscriber mark. That level of growth shows not only how solid AT&T is in the pre-paid space, but also how solid this segment of the wireless industry is in general.

Dwyer also told me that Cricket, which is the number one pre-paid service in the United States, was just awarded first place in the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Wireless Customer Care Non-Contract Performance Study. That’s some pretty solid performance in the rapidly growing pre-paid space.

Cricket crossed 10 million subscriber mark and wins J.D. Power award

Seeing how pre-paid is growing, Verizon Wireless is getting more aggressive in this space lately as well. Last year, they introduced a pre-paid brand called Visible.

I spoke with Jeremy Bolton, head of strategy and business development at Visble, who says Verizon also sees this massive pre-paid growth potential. To date, they are more limited compared to Cricket. For example, if you want one phone line that’s easy. If you want two or three lines, you can’t put them on the same account and get a discount. Not yet anyway.

You have to sign up for a full featured account for each phone and line you use. There are other limitations, but they have plans to continue to improve and expand as they grow.

Visible is a new Verizon pre-paid offering with interesting marketing strategy

What is interesting about this service is Visible is taking an entirely new and different marketing strategy. They are a pre-paid service available online only. There are no Visible storefronts. No advertising. That means they are not taking the same marketing and advertising path as other wireless competitors.

Instead, they make themselves known through activity on social networks. It’s a novel approach. Their performance will be very interesting to watch going forward. Even if it’s successful, however, it will only address one slice of the pre-paid space. So, I expect to see more from Verizon on the rapidly growing pre-paid space.

T-Mobile and Sprint also offer pre-paid services

T-Mobile and Sprint both offer pre-paid service as well, but there’s nothing new to discuss regarding their efforts – today, at least. They’re focused on getting their merger approved. There are also plenty of other smaller carriers and MVNOs that offer pre-paid services.

The pre-paid industry has been with us in the US for the last couple decades. It started out as a way for people with poor credit or no credit to get a wireless phone. Prices were generally higher and handset choices were slimmer, but at least people with credit issues could still get a cellular phone.

Over the last decade, the prepaid space has changed and is now growing quite rapidly. Today, pre-paid is for everyone. The reason is simple: Pre-paid has now become a full-featured, fully functional and lower-priced option compared to traditional post-paid for many carriers.

Pre-paid wireless has many advantages and continues to grow

When you take a closer look and compare post-paid and pre-paid services, the advantages become clear. Post-paid is traditional wireless. It supports everything from watching television to using the service while travelling internationally.

Pre-paid has almost all the same features and functionality, especially when you’re in the US. They have the same smartphones – like iPhone and Android – and use the same networks as the big-brand name companies that own them. But the customer doesn’t have to sign a longer-term contract.

Users can sign up for a month-to-month plan and cancel any time. In fact, pre-paid is often lower-cost compared to regular post-paid wireless service.

The pre-paid marketplace is maturing and will continue to grow. Today, pre-paid customers don’t give up anything but a few features, like international calling. They get the same call quality, data connection and reach, but at a lower cost.

Choice between pre-paid and post-paid wireless getting harder to make

If you don’t use the few features not available to pre-paid – such as watching television and international calling – then pre-paid is certainly an option to consider. Otherwise, quality and reach should be the same.

Pre-paid is a rapidly growing and changing space. With Cricket Wireless crossing the 10 million subscriber mark and Visible creating new ways to market the service, everyone can see how it will continue to grow, mature and change. Pre-paid is exactly the kind of service a growing slice of the consumer pie wants, and I only see that trend continuing.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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