Sprint, Wal-Mart Launch Prepaid Wireless - InformationWeek

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Sprint, Wal-Mart Launch Prepaid Wireless

Common Cents Mobile, Sprint Nextel's latest attempt to shore up its business, will be sold exclusively through Wal-Mart stores.

Sprint Nextel, which is looking to prepaid wireless plans to help boost its revenue, plans to launch this weekend a pay-by-the-minute plan that will be offered through Wal-Mart stores.

Under Common Cents Mobile introduced Thursday, people pay seven cents a minute for calls and the same amount per text message. Cellular phones will be available for between $20 and $70.

Common Cents will debut Saturday at more than 700 Wal-Mart stores, which will offer the service exclusively. The new offering is targeted at people who do not use a mobile phone enough to warrant paying for a post-paid plan.

"In recent months, consumers seeking no-frills, pay-by-the-minute plans have been somewhat overlooked with the popularity of unlimited plans in the market," Dan Schulman, president of Sprint's prepaid group, said in a statement.

In trying to make its offering more attractive than rivals', Sprint says it will "round down" people's minutes.

Common Cents customers will have the option of buying prepaid cards, or setting up monthly balances online with a credit card or through PayPal. Customers can add unlimited messaging for $20 a month and data access for $1 per megabyte per day. There are no activation or termination fees.

Among the major U.S. carriers, Sprint has been the most aggressive in moving into the prepaid market. The company dove into the market last year with the $483 million purchase of Virgin Mobile.

Sprint has turned to prepaid plans to replace losses in post-paid subscribers. In April, the company reported a loss of $865 million on revenue of $8.1 billion in the first quarter, which also saw a loss of 75,000 net subscribers. Prepaid signups, however, grew during the quarter.

The use of prepaid plans in general has been rising among consumers. As a result, Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA has introduced several no-contract plans, and Verizon Wireless is expanding its offerings through a partnership with Tracfone Wireless, a unit of America Movil S.A.B. de C.V. and another major provider of pay-as-you-go services.

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