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Going Mobile (Part 2): How to Get In on Wireless Revolution -- Without Credit Checks or 2-Year Commitments by Donna Schwartz Mills < http://ld.net/?americanglo >
In Part 1 of this series, we explored reasons why some home business owners choose wireless phones for their telephone needs, and how to find a carrier that works for you. (See Part 1 at < http://www.family-content.com/articles/data/20020924130604.shtml >
In that article, we focused on standard wireless service plans in United States, where customer agrees in advance to pay for a minimum amount of airtime monthly -- for a period of one or two years. Before customer signs a contract, he or she is subjected to a credit check and may be required to leave a hefty deposit to get started.
This could pose a problem for new home-based entrepreneur who may be strapped for cash and credit poor, and making a one or two year commitment may not be wisest choice for someone in start-up phase.
These individuals may want to check out new prepaid plans springing up in U.S. Most of these are using a model popular in Europe, which work like this:
* Customers buy a service package consisting of a telephone and a prepaid voucher for airtime (ranging from $10 to $25).
* Users are charged for calls they make and receive up to amount of prepaid airtime.
* When a customer runs out of airtime, he or she can "top up" account, either by buying more time online or over phone with a credit card or paying cash at a local store for another air time voucher.
This kind of service requires no credit checks or long-term commitments; customers may quit at any time.
Most of major U.S. wireless providers have introduced their own versions of this kind of system and have recently been joined by European and Australian players getting their feet wet in American market. In fact, industry statistics indicate that this is fastest growing segment of wireless market.
You should also note that even large national carriers may not be offering their prepaid plans in your area. Do check out their websites for more information.
Here's a rundown of some of prepaid plans currently offered in U.S.:
AT&T Free2Go < http://www.attws.com/personal/prepaid/index.jhtml >
The nation's largest telecommunications company offers a dizzying array of services, including this one. When you purchase a Free2Go package at $99.99, you get a Nokia 3361 TDMA Digital multi-network phone, battery, charger & headset and a voucher worth $10 in airtime.
Once again, you need to carefully analyze your calling patterns. AT&T offers a choice of a "Home Calling Plan," which gives you one rate for local and long distance calls and another rate for roaming... and a "Nationwide Calling Plan," which gives you a higher, blanket rate (but does not charge extra for roaming).
AT&T's pricing has an additional wrinkle in that your per-minute rate will vary depending upon amount of your prepaid vouchers. If you buy just a $10 Local Plan voucher, your airtime will cost you 50 cents per minute... but that decreases down to 12 cents per minute with a $100 voucher. Be sure you do numbers very carefully before you buy!
One nice thing about AT&T's plan is that if you have an old phone lying around that is compatible with their network, you can just go down to one of their dealers and pick up a Free2Go Starter Kit at no cost - all you pay for is your airtime to get started!
BoostMobile < http://www.boostmobile.com/home.htm >
This Australian company is currently testing its new U.S. service in California, with plans to go national in 2003. Their youth-oriented advertising is targeted to teenagers, but that's no reason why their parents might not be interested, if service is good.
Boost offers a nice selection of Motorola phones on Nextel network, which means that their service also includes Nextel's nifty Direct Connect "walkie talkie" type feature (renamed by Boost to Boost2Way). The downside of using Nextel's network is coverage, which is not as wide as some of other major carriers. Boost's phones also feature some nifty games (as noted above, their target market is teen segment).
Packages range from $99 to $399 (for a model with a color screen - better to play those games with).