Why No-Contract Wireless Is on the Rise

Much of the subscriber growth reported by wireless providers comes from increasing numbers of prepaid, no-contract customers

By Paul Kapustka, PC World |  Mobile & Wireless, 3g, wifi

While they timidly test the waters in prepaid service, the nation's biggest carriers continue to offer their 3G devices in a complex and confusing tangle of data caps, device costs, and plan rules. Purveyors of the new, so-called 4G networks (Clearwire, Sprint, and MetroPCS) are adding prepaid, all-you-can-use data plans that tout the new networks' faster download speeds.

On August 30, Clearwire launched its Rover prepaid brand, which requires users to purchase either a $150 mobile router (called the Rover Puck) or a $100 USB modem to connect to the company's WiMax network. The Wi-Fi connection in the Rover Puck will then support up to five additional devices. Rover plans cost $5 per day, $20 per week, or $50 per month, with no data caps and with download speeds that eclipse those of 3G networks.

Though Clearwire has offered month-to-month contracts for its service, Seth Cummings, general manager of the Rover brand, notes, those plans still require a credit card, which many of the data-hungry youths in Rover's target market don't have.

"We wanted to take away all the complexity of signing up for a mobile data plan, while coming out of the gate with a premium feel for a pay-as-you-go market," Cummings says. The Rover products will work wherever Clearwire has service; as of September 20, Clearwire's WiMax service was available in 54 markets.

Paul Kapustka is editor and founder of Sidecut Reports, an independent research firm that specializes in wireless technologies.

Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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