Leaked internal Sprint documentation has revealed and confirmed that after being the last major carrier to not offer its own internally branded and controlled prepaid phone service, Sprint will finally join the ranks of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA in launching an internally controlled and branded prepaid service option under the name “Sprint As You Go” on the 25th of this month.
Sprint As You Go will break from the Prepaid Group in a few key ways. First, the service plans will be priced at $49.99 and $79.99 for feature phones and smartphones respectively, while including unlimited voice, data and messaging, with no throttling after a set threshold, as is being done with Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile in the next few weeks.
The service will also not allow for the nascent BYOSD option currently being rolled out across Sprint-powered MVNOs; all phones compatible with the brand will be sold for this service only and Sprint has selected the LG Optimus Elite and Samsung Victory for the smartphone category at $149.99 and $249.99 respectively while the Samsung M400 and Array will complete the forthcoming lineup for $49.99 and $79.99. Devices will be eligible for Sprint’s Total Equipment Protection service as normal, the only difference being, the devices themselves will not have the deep rebates or special offers that postpaid service does.
As far as coverage is concerned, voice coverage will consist of native and roaming voice coverage, while data access and coverage will consist of EV-DO while on Sprint’s network and 1x roaming data. No EV-DO roaming will be made available and account management will also be handled differently.
While the accounts will be opened up through selected third-party dealers under the same general process as a postpaid account, they will not feature access to select features such as account billing for Sprint services or multiple lines. Related to the access to Sprint services, access to Sprint-powered premium services such as Sprint TV or international calling will not be included with the rate plans. Any other premium services can be billed to a credit or debit card on the account, but billing purchases and services to accounts will not be available.
Sprint is also using the “Sprint As You Go” offering to push usage of its online account management portal, with account management being done through text messaging for account alerts and the suggestion of setting up automatic payments through the portal for the easiest way to manage the service to potential customers.
While Sprint has finally caught up to the rest of the industry in rolling out its own internally branded and controlled prepaid brand directly under the Sprint banner, the carrier has missed key opportunities to make the offering more attractive than its entrenched competitors and even its own Prepaid Group, such as complete access to the same lineup as Sprint postpaid instead of limiting to selected devices and the lack of the BYOSD option is a rather curious omission from the offering, as selected Sprint-powered MVNOs such as Ting and soon Boost Mobile will offer the option to reactivate older devices.
What also remains to be seen is how Sprint will promote the new offering, as it already heavily markets its Prepaid Group services in Virgin and Boost Mobile. With T-Mobile preparing to compete directly with America Movil and StraightTalk on price in the next few weeks with a new brand, Sprint had a real chance to really differentiate its own internal prepaid brand from its Prepaid Group, but as is common with the carrier, misses the mark with too many exceptions that no longer work in the current marketplace.