Having forecast a decided shift from postpaid to prepaid cell phone service in the U.S a year ago, 4Q 2009 marked the first time that the number of new prepaid wireless customers outnumbered new postpaid cell phone customers, the New Millennium Research Council points out in a news release.  The NMRC expects this trend to continue into, and throughout, 2010.

Prepaid wireless plans have become quite competitive with traditional post paid plans, and not just in cost, but in features too. Several prepaide carriers offer 3G data services and MetroPCS announced they intend to launch a 4G LTE network in Las Vegas soon.

In its latest analysis of the latest complete quarterly data, the NMRC highlights the following:

  • New prepaid cell phone subscribers accounted for almost 2/3 (65%) of the 4.2 million net cell phone subscribers added by U.S. carriers in 4Q09;
  • The prepaid market segment grew 17% in 4Q09 to 54.4 million subscribers, up from 46.3 million in 4Q ’08. Contract-based cell phone service grew only 3% over the same period;
  • One out of every five cell phone subscribers (20%) now use prepaid phones, up from 18% at the end of 2008;
  • There were 285 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. at the end of 2009.

“We stand by what we forecast a year ago: The era of cell phone penny pinching is officially here. Thanks to the recession, the U.S. cell phone marketplace continues to undergo fundamental changes that will just get bigger as the economic downturn deepens,” commented Jose Guzman, the NMRC project’s coordinator. “What is different from a year ago is the explosion in new ‘all-you-can-eat’ and unlimited prepaid deals as low as $30 and $45 that will remain attractive to consumers long after the current recession is over.”

Added John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud for the National Consumers League, ““We believe that in a tough economy, consumers are increasingly on the lookout for ways to cut costs to help make ends meet.

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3 thoughts on “Prepaid Wireless Net Adds Outnumber Postpaid for the First Time

  1. It's just natural with this economy that cell phone companies face the pressure of price wars. I for one am not complaining – it's great for us consumers. I recently switched to Net10 and my saving is about $30/month. I'm very happy with the service and the fact that there's no contract. I once had to pay $175 in contract/early termination fee and will never ever be subject to that again!

  2. I've been a prepaid customer for years now and totally recomment it to evryone! not only does it give you complete freedomt to switch if you're not satisfied with the plan or carrier, it saves you a ton of money every month. With the dire economic climate, we all need to look for ways to save money. Cutting the land ine is an option, the other is to switch to prepaid. I have TracFone which happens to be one of the leading carriers. Their plans start as low as $10 for 60 minute and often times you can add double minutes. The phones themselves are b=very good quality, much like any regualr cell phone. Caviat – if you're always on the cell phone, this might not be for you. But if you're like me, who uses the cell only if i need to or for the ocassional social call, then this is definitely for you. Next time you go to WallMart or Bet Buy or Target, check them out. Or you can just visit them online. Go ahead! make the switch! Riskfree, just more money in your pocket!

  3. I personally prefer NET10 for my cell needs. The low cost coupled with high value service makes it the best choice IMHO. I have been using them for years now.

    I can certainly see why people would shift en-masse to prepaid. I hear all my friends gripe about not only the high cost of their cell contracts but also about how the carriers add all these hidden charges to their bills. This just doesn't happen with NET10. I would also be looking elsewhere if they nickel-and-dimed me like that.

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