The Covid-19 pandemic and related societal changes have altered the competitive landscape for US prepaid wireless carriers, making high-speed data allotments a key offering. This trend should continue with year-end holiday shopping.
Increased high-speed data allotments continue to be a theme as prepaid wireless competitors try to outdo one another, increasingly by offering appealing data-only prepaid plans. Looking ahead, we can expect to see prepaid carriers market limited-time promotions offering extra high-speed data to customers willing to switch from rival providers and bring their own devices. There also could be more adjustments made to pricing around mobile hotspot data plans, a service segment that has gained more focus due to Covid-19.
Lifestyle changes have an impact
Both AT&T Prepaid and Cricket Wireless launched new data-only plans during April, and Dish Network’s Boost Mobile brand also introduced a new data-only plan in July. These moves reflect in part the impact of the pandemic, which has led to increases in remote working and online learning plus higher demand for more streaming entertainment.
Many prepaid brands are supporting the US Government’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, which began May 12 and subsidizes the cost of broadband service for households that qualify based upon income. Depending on the service plan chosen, EBB subsidization can result in free internet access for a subscriber, a factor helping drive demand for prepaid data-only mobile plans and phone plans with substantial data allotments.
Also, as mobile networks expand their 5G capabilities they are better able to support mobile and fixed high-speed data demands, increasing their appeal to those seeking broadband options.
Gazing into the crystal ball
We don’t yet know how Verizon’s pending acquisition of TracFone later this year will impact the overall prepaid wireless market. TracFone is the largest reseller of wireless services in the U.S. and gaining its 20 million customers will make Verizon the largest prepaid wireless service provider.
Nonetheless, as we enter the second half of 2021, US prepaid wireless carriers will likely focus on family plan offerings, including targeting two- and four-line accounts with promotional pricing offers. Carriers will continue to focus on reducing churn with new loyalty offers, revamping and testing auto-pay rewards, offering bonus data on their high-tier plans, and updating value-added services, including streaming video.
Provided the Covid-19 pandemic begins to level out more, look for renewed focus on international features and plans as well as additional in-store only offers.