CellularPhones.com Inc. (CPI, www.cellularphones.com), an e-commerce retailer that offers cellular phone products, accessories and service plans has added new services to its palette: prepaid cellular and paging.
Now all customers need is Internet access to purchase cellular or paging service on an as-needed basis via their PCs.
For $69.99, consumers can purchase a pager and 200 units of service for one month. The pagers offer local and national paging at one and five units each, respectively. Three-month, 1,000-unit refill cards sell for $30 on the CPI website.
“We decided to offer prepaid pagers because they are a natural complement to our existing product line of cellular technology,” says CPI President Colin Delia.
The pagers, which U.S. South Communications Inc. (www.us-south.net) manufactures, include a toll-free pager number, a personal greeting and e-mail paging capabilities. They are available in gray, neon yellow and neon green.
CPI offers an initial prepaid cellular service package that includes a choice of a Motorola or Nokia phone, 10 units of service and a plug-in battery charger. The package retails for $129.99.
Delia says his company’s new service is targeted at the credit-challenged, and teen-agers whose parents do not want their children to abuse cell phone privileges.
“It’s a great alternative for parents who want their teens to have a phone, but don’t want a huge bill each month,” Delia says. “With prepaid service, parents can teach their teens to budget their phone use by telling them that if they use up their allotted units talking to friends, they’ll have to buy more out of their own pockets.”
Those additional service units also are available for sale on the CellularPhones.com website. Unused airtime for the new prepaid cellular service never expires and there are no reactivation fees.
BellSouth Names Blackstone Master Distributor
By Liz Montalbano
The partnership enables Blackstone to distribute BellSouth Mobility’s prepaid wireless products and services throughout the entire BellSouth footprint, which spans the southeastern United States.
Blackstone’s marketing coordinator Dave Goldfarb says the new venture is a natural progression in the company’s strategy to provide a range of prepaid products and services.
“Consumers have been enjoying the benefits of Blackstone prepaid long-distance calling cards for the past six years,” Goldfarb said in a press statement. “Our new BellSouth prepaid wireless product is the next logical addition to our comprehensive line of prepaid products and services.”
Currently, Blackstone offers a BellSouth Mobility prepaid wireless starter kit that includes an activated prepaid cellular phone and $30 worth of airtime. The kit retails for $99.
Blackstone also sells additional prepaid wireless phone cards in $10, $20 and $30 denominations. Retail airtime charges for the service range from 40 cents to 50 cents per minute, and additional features include roaming and free automated assistance calls.
Blackstone currently distributes its products to more than 3,200 distributors nationwide, with more than 7,800 retail accounts in the south Florida region.
New Service Bureau Opens
By Liz Montalbano
A new prepaid service bureau, Live Oak Telecom LLC, has launched its first service offering, prepaid wireless communications in Texas, with plans to expand into the Southwest and throughout the United States.
Live Oak Telecom (www.liveoaktelecom.com) also plans eventually to move into Central and South America.
The Live Oak system, which the company developed itself, is based on a fault-tolerant Stratus computer that remotely can control switches in satellite cities. Having built its own platform from the ground up gives Live Oak an advantage to other prepaid service bureaus, according to David Womack, president and COO of the company.
“While other service bureaus rely on platform providers that have made system compromises in order to meet profit margins, we built our own system,” Womack said in a press release.
“Doing so has allowed us to ensure performance and quality that far surpass existing prepaid service bureaus.”
The Live Oak system is developed around multiple carriers and redundant signaling system 7 (SS7) lines, which, according to the company, eliminate network down time.
WirelessWireless Solutions Begins Services in Three Cities with Help from Telemac
By Liz Montalbano
Wireless Solutions LLP (www.wirelesssolutions.com) is launching prepaid wireless services in three U.S. cities– San Francisco, Sacramento, Calif., and Salt Lake City–using patented technology from Telemac Corp. (www.telemac.com).
The rollout initially is under resale agreements with AT&T Wireless Services (www.att.com) and Cellular One Group (www.cellularone.com). Wireless Solutions also plans to start digital prepaid services using Telemac Prepaid Technology later this year.
Wireless Solutions Chairman and CEO J.S. Peterson says the inexpensive cost of providing prepaid wireless services using Telemac’s technology was a driving force behind the new program. Because Telemac’s technology is handset-based, a company does not have to invest in infrastructure or a back-office billing system.
“Of all the prepaid technology solutions available in the market today, Telemac Prepaid Technology is by far the most scaleable and the most economic,” Peterson said in a press statement.
Wireless Solutions was founded in 1996 and operates Telemac’s system in the Salt Lake City area, providing services to the Sundance Film Festival, for pre-Olympic events and for Utah’s motion picture film industry.
Shared Technologies Launches CellEase.com
By Liz Montalbano
Shared Technologies Cellular Inc. (STC, www.sharedcellular.com) has launched a subsidiary and an Internet-based system that allows retailers to activate prepaid cards at point-of-sale (PoS) terminals.
CellEase 2000, a service of wholly owned subsidiary CellEase.com Inc. (www.cellease.com), allows retailers to pass prepaid cellular and pager cards through Shared Technologies’s proprietary Debit Redemption and Activation System (DebRA) so customers can add units of prepaid cellular or paging airtime in real time.
Anthony D. Autorino, Shared Technologies’ chairman and CEO, says the success of prepaid wireless in retail outlets, as well as security issues, spawned the new service and subsidiary.
In a press release, Autorino said, “Our new magnetic-striped cards have no monetary value until they have been passed through the retailer’s point-of-sale activation system,” which means they no longer must be kept under lock and key for fear of theft.
CellEase.com will house and maintain the CellEase.com website and all proprietary interfaces between Shared Technologies, the Internet, prepaid distribution and technology partners, and a nationwide financial services transaction network.
The interfaces allow seamless customer transactions between vendors’ customers and STC’s DebRA system. Links between the interfaces are secure and use transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP), electronic data interchange (EDI), extensible markup language (XML) and custom communications protocols.
The protocols vary and are flexible, enabling Shared Technologies to be a clearinghouse for various prepaid telecom transactions across the United States.
DebitFone Signs Vending Machine Contract in Louisiana
DebitFone, a wholly owned subsidiary of SATX Inc. (www.satxic.com), announced it has signed a contract with Thrifty Liquor and Check Cashing in Shreveport, La., for placement of DebitFone vending machines at its 15 megastores.
The DebitFone vending machines dispense a proprietary prepaid cellular phone ready for use with phone number installed, battery charged and 30 minutes of talk time preloaded.
“The high volume of check cashing and traffic in these 15 stores makes them an excellent location for our DebitFone vending machines,” says SATX Vice President of Sales and Marketing Anton Skell.
Thrifty Liquor cashes more than 70,000 payroll checks per month.
Page Tel Signs New Distribution Points
Page Tel Inc. (www.pagetelcellular.com) began the new millennium by opening new distribution points for its prepaid cellular cards in New York and Los Angeles.
With an eye toward coast-to-coast distribution, the company already has distribution set up in 28 states across the country and plan additional sites in major cities in 10 more states in the first quarter of 2000.
Those states include Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The company plans to have distribution points in all 50 states by early 2002.
Innovators of the “Phone in the Box” program, Page Tel offers retailers pre-activated, preprogrammed products at a competitive price. Retailers receive revenue from the original sale as well as card replenishments.
International Companies Choose LHS Platform To Offer Prepaid Services
Two international companies have chosen the platform of LHS Priority Call Inc. (www.prioritycall.com), a subsidiary of LHS Group Inc., to provide prepaid services.
TeleYemen, a joint venture of Cable & Wireless plc (www.cwcom.co.uk) and Yemen’s Public Telecommunications Corp., is using LHS Priority Call’s ORYX platform to deliver an integrated suite of enhanced services to its subscribers.
TeleYemen has deployed a range of calling and messaging services on wireline and wireless networks, including prepaid calling cards, handset-based prepaid calling and enhanced messaging services. LHS also delivers postpaid calling services and single-number services for wireline and wireless TeleYemen customers.
A fixed telecom company based in Brazil, Vesper S.A., uses the ORYX platform to deliver prepaid wireless calling and voice-messaging services. Vesper deploys wireless local-loop systems in 29 cities and 16 states throughout Brazil. Subscribers to the Vesper network have full wireless capabilities within their business or residence with the additional features of voice-mail retrieval from any location served by Vesper and global recharge capabilities to facilitate customer account updates and maintenance.
Down Under’s Mobile Market Opens More With Telstra’s TopUp
San Francisco–Telstra International Inc.’s (www.international.telstra-com.au) introduction of its TopUp prepaid mobile is the first to be offered on any Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) Freedom network in Australia.
TopUp is based on CDMA technology, and does not require customers to recharge cards, according to a Telstra press release.
The initial offer consists of a CDMA handset packaged with free connection and AU$35 of included cell credits, which already are on the pre-paid account for a retail price of AU$99.
“We are serious about making life easier for customers,” says Phillip Wise, Telstra’s consumer division manager, mobiles. “TopUp delivers simplicity and cost control and should appeal across the board, including business customers.
He also says the product permits customers to pre-pay their mobile phone access and call charges on the CDMA Freedom network, which allows for mobile convenience with inbuilt cost control.
BCGI Renews Contract With Rogers AT&T Wireless
Boston Communications Group Inc. (BCGI, www.bcgi.net), a provider of prepaid services to wireless carriers in North and South America, has renewed its contract for prepaid wireless services with Canada’s largest wireless carrier, Rogers AT&T Wireless (www.cantel.com).
“We are pleased to continue our relationship with Rogers AT&T Wireless. They truly have embraced prepaid with aggressive offerings, competitive rates and effective marketing strategies,” says E.Y. Snowden, BCGI president and CEO.
Rogers AT&T Wireless first launched its prepaid wireless service–branded Pay As You Go–in May 1998 and now services customers in Canada from coast to coast. Pay As You Go features competitive rates and enhanced features, such as international dialing and BCGI’s Passport Service, which allows consumers to place calls from any wireless phone to anywhere in the world.
“[BCGI] provides the features and services that enable us to maintain leadership in the growing prepaid wireless marketplace by providing all Canadians the opportunity to use the exciting service of prepaid wireless.”
BCGI’s solution includes prepaid roaming and seamless migration to wireless intelligent networking.
Telemac Handset Sales Exceed 3 Million
Telemac Corp. (www.telemac.com), a provider of handset-based prepaid wireless technology, has announced its handset licensees have sold more than 3 million Telemac-enabled wireless phones.
Telemac-enabled phones use Telemac’s patented technology to provide prepaid wireless service. Telemac actually does not develop handsets itself–it sells its technology to partner companies that integrate it into their handsets to provide prepaid wireless service.
Telemac-enabled handsets eliminate the use of hardware and software associated with prepaid wireless services, since the technology is not network based and companies using it do not need to install or lease infrastructure equipment.
The Telemac solution also eliminates many billing expenses, since prepaid customers can obtain a real-time display of their remaining prepaid balances by pressing a key on the handsets.
Topp Telecom Expands Line, Lowers Rates, Upgrades Call Center
By Khali Henderson
Topp Telecom Inc. (www.topptelecom.com), an affiliate of Telefonos de Mexico and a provider of prepaid wireless made several January announcements that impact its product offer, including support for additional phones, lower rates and upgrades to its call center.
Topp Telecom offers two new handsets–the Nokia 252C and the Nokia 282P–for its TRACFONE prepaid service. Prices will range from $99 to $179. These models join Topp Telecom’s existing line, which includes Nokia 918P, the Motorola Profile 300, Motorola Microtac 650 and Motorola StarTAC 3000.
In conjunction with its new airtime rates, the company also offers a $30 rebate on all Nokia handset purchases plus one month of free service and 10 minutes of free airtime. The new rates for the TRACFONE service, effective Feb. 1, are $7.99, $19.99, $49.99 and $99.99 per month for 10, 30, 100 and 260 minutes, respectively.
In a separate announcement, Topp Telecom reports completion of an $11 million investment in its call center to support its growing customer base and to deliver enhanced customer services.
The new system includes hardware and software from Clarify Inc. (www.clarify.com), Architel Systems Corp. (www.architel.com), Oracle Financial EMC (www.cosmotech.com), Compaq Corp. (www.compaq.com) and Lucent Technologies Inc. (www.lucent.com).
The solution incorporates an interactive voice response (IVR) system that automates customer airtime redemptions, allowing customers to easily refill airtime on their phones by calling Topp’s toll-free number without speaking to a live operator.
Topp’s call center, situated near the company’s headquarters in Miami, maintains 400 customer service representatives with future seating for 700 people.