Boost Mobile (Sprint) Counters T-Mobile US Prepaid Promotion

Sprint is offering new and existing Boost Mobile customers prepaid plans with unlimited calling, text messaging and one gigabyte of data for $35 a month, an offer evidently meant to be a response to T-Mobile US promotions for prepaid users offering a gigabyte of data for $40 a month, as well as a $40 a month, 500-MB plan offered by AT&T.

The Bloomberg report also notes that Sprint also is cutting the cost and doubling the data for its more expensive prepaid plans, which were priced at $50 a month and $60 a month.

As is typical for mobile marketing wars, each offer touted by a key competitor is quickly matched, and that seems to be the case here.

As part of an Amazon Fire promotion, AT&T Mobility reportedly is offering customers a “nothing down” plan for buyers of the Amazon Fire phone, at present offered exclusively through AT&T.

The limited time offer requires that customers  sign up for a two-year service plan or buy the device using the “Next”  installment plan, paying $32.50 a month.

Observers might disagree about whether the move reflects the mobile marketing war currently underway in the U.S. mobile market or just an oversupply of devices that AT&T wishes to reduce.

Separately, T-Mobile US doubled the number of music streaming services customers can use under the “Music Freedom ” plan that does not count music streaming against the user mobile data usage cap.

The original plan included  iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Samsung Milk, Slacker and Spotify. The latest move adds AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio and Songza.

Promotions are not unusual even in “normal” times. But the present mobile marketing war means an unusually high number of promotions, some large, some small, will be launched.

Most recently, T-Mobile US quadrupled the amount of customers can get on its Simple Starter  plan, for an additional fee of $5 a month. The basic plan, costing $40 a month, provides 500 MB of Long Tern Evolution network data. For $45 a month, users get 2 GB.

T-Mobile US also now allows Simple Choice family plans including as many as 10 lines, and separately launched a promotion that matches smartphone data allowances when a tablet is added to a plan.

Sprint earlier had expanded its shared data plans to as many as 10 lines, doubled the amount of data included as part of such plans and set pricing that undercuts similar AT&T and Verizon plans.

Sprint also adjusted the single-line plan, setting $60 a month pricing for he tunlimited data plan.

Unlike family share plans offered by AT&T and Verizon Wireless, in which members draw from the same pool of data, each plan T-Mobile line has its own dedicated pool of data.

Under conditions where retail plans are changing so fast, a simple “no down payment” feature might not be viewed as that big a deal. Even under “normal” competitive conditions, that might not be so big a change.

Against the backdrop of a fierce mobile marketing war, every “little” promotion might have more significance.

Much of the recent activity has focused on the prepaid, or value segment of the market, in part because the major national service providers have been taking share from the independent prepaid brands.

Also, T-Mobile’s MetroPCS acquisition was an effort to bolster T-Mobile’s position in the faster-growing prepaid segment of the business.

In fact, the prepaid customer segments are a the center of marketing campaigns launched by T-Mobile US and Sprint.

T-Mobile US arguably has been picking up tablet accounts and single-line phone accounts, weighted towards the value end of the market.

In the second quarter, T -Mobile US booked virtually all net new prepaid account growth in the U.S. market, for example.

T-Mobile US now also has increased by 2 GB Long Term Evolution usage buckets for customers of its “Simple Starter” plans.

T-Mobile US now provides “Simple Starter” plan customers to quadruple their data to a full 2 GB of LTE data, for just $5 per month. That plan was launched in May 2014 as an entry-level solution with unlimited talk and text, and 500 MB of LTE data for just $40, starting in September 3, 2014.

The move allows T-Mobile US to improve the value of its entry-level offer.
Sprint, likewise, has launched new plans aimed at single-line customers, as well as a shared data plan that features double the usage bucket as comparable plans from AT&T and Verizon, for example.

Other carriers also are attacking at the value end of the market.

Cricket Wireless (owned by AT&T) is offering former T-Mobile and Metro PCS customers who switch to Cricket Wireless a $100 bill credit, available from Aug. 24 to Oct. 19, 2014, at Cricket stores nationwide and online.  

There is no limit on the number of lines a customer can switch to Cricket, receiving a $100 bill credit for each line transferred.

Cricket’s new offer is one more way AT&T can fight back against attacks on the value end of the market from T-Mobile US or Sprint.

Promotions will be launched for the higher value shared data plans that represent multi-line accounts as well.

Still, at the moment, it is tablet additions and phone accounts in the value segment that have been the focus of marketing attacks initiated by T-Mobile US.

Sprint arguably is the carrier with the broadest attack on shared data plan accounts that are, by definition, multi-line accounts.
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