I’m Taking the Prepaid Plunge

imagesPrepaid cell phone plans are looking increasingly attractive for those who want more services for less money, according to the latest issue of Consumer Reports. Several new plans that cost $50 per month for unlimited voice and texts have recently been introduced from smaller carriers such as Boost Mobile and Virgin, the magazine notes in its September issue. So someone who needs 3,000 minutes of voice each month (but no data) would only have to pay $600 a year as opposed to shelling out $1,200 for similar plans from the four major contract carriers.
Back in December I took a look at five reasons to consider prepaid plans. While I caught some flak from readers who questioned why GigaOM would care about such things, with prepaid increasingly being viewed as a source of revenue growth in the cell phone industry (as evidenced, most recently, by Sprint’s (s S) announcement last week that it plans to buy Virgin Mobile USA as part of a move toward more prepaid clients), we think it’s an important area on which to focus our attention. And as a cheapskate, I’m eager to see if I can cut a $200-plus phone bill from Verizon (s VZ) down to size.
So I’m checking out prepaid service for voice and data from Leap Wireless’s (s LEAP) Cricket service in order to see how far I, as a heavy mobile phone voice and data user, can push a prepaid plan. Sometime over the next few days I should be receiving a Motorola (s MOT) Hint in the mail to supplant my BlackBerry Curve (Metro PCS has a BlackBerry Curve, but Cricket, which provides service in my hometown of Austin, does not) and a 3G dongle that works only in cities where Cricket has its EVDO network. I’ll pay $35 for 5 GB of data through the dongle since I’ll have a Cricket plan and $45 per month for unlimited voice, text and web in areas where Cricket has coverage. If I travel to any of the 15 states where Cricket doesn’t have coverage I can add roaming minutes. Since Cricket’s coverage area extends to the West Coast, where I tend to travel for work, I’m feeling OK with regard to voice, but I think data may be a problem. As I move through my experiment I’ll update y’all from my life on the prepaid side.