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New Verizon BYOP MVNO TalkForGood Launching Next Month

Prepaid usage is really taking off and new prepaid operators have been launching left and right lately. I've covered EcoMobile and Telcel America recently and there are at least three more new operators that have either launched recently or are about to. Here's a first look at TalkForGood, a new Verizon MVNO (mobile virtual network operator). MVNOs resell another operator's mobile service while generally handling billing and customer support themselves. TalkForGood is aiming for a "soft launch" on or shortly after Nov. 1, 2012.

The TalkForGood website is a bit long on marketing talk and short on facts. But it does tell us that the "ForGood" part of the name means that TalkForGood will donate a portion of your monthly bill to the charity of you choice. I called TalkForGood and was able learn a bit more about how the service will work, although many of the details are still subject to change before the launch.

Like EcoMobile, TalkForGood will not be selling their own phones, it will be a Bring Your Own Phone (BYOD) operator only. TalkForGood's website claims that "if your phone works on the Verizon network it will work on the TalkForGood network". However, TalkForGood is subject to the same restrictions as other Verizon MVNOs and will not be able to activate Verizon prepaid phones. But it should be possible to use any non-LTE postpaid Verizon phone with a clean ESN (not reported lost or stolen or flagged by Verizon for non-payment).  CDMA phones from other operators like Sprint that have been manually programmed (aka "Flashed") using specialized software should also work on TalkForGood.

Verizon LTE phones use a Verizon LTE SIM card to authenticate on the network and are currently extremely difficult or impossible to activate on any network except Verizon itself. TalkForGood hopes to have their own LTE SIM cards by year's end and will then be able to seamlessly activate Verizon LTE phones.

TalkForGood has just two plans, a monthly plan and a pay as you go plan

The monthly plan is the "Peace Plan" and includes unlimited voice, texts and mobile web for $55/month. I suspect that the unlimited data has a hidden cap, most likely 2 GB/month.

The pay as you go "Smart Plan" has very good rates; 5¢/minute, 1¢/text and 6¢/MB. However there's a $6 monthly fee. Pay as You Go refills  are good for 120 days and will be available in $10, $25 and $50 denominations. Unlike almost every other pay as you go operator, there is no rollover, any funds in the account beyond the 120 day expiration will be forfeited.

TalkForGood says it won't charge taxes in most states but that they will have to charge taxes in about ten states. Which sounds like it's probably E911 and/or state sales taxes only.

When TalkForGood soft launches around Nov.1 the service will be available to everyone, however you will need to call in to activate a phone.  A full launch is expected around Nov 10. At that time it will be possible to activate phones online.

It's always good to see new entrants in the prepaid world and I welcome TalkForGood. Their plans seem competitive but not particularly disruptive. To be compelling the $55 monthly plan will need to include substantially more data than the 2 GB that Page Plus offers with their $55 Plan.

TalkForGood's pay as you go plan would have looked good a week ago. But then came the news that Page Plus will begin allowing users to let monthly plans expire and use them as a pay as you go plan with rates of 5¢/min, 5¢/text and 5¢/MB. The Page Plus "Monthly Expired Bundle-in-Limbo Solution" (MEBILS) has a $10 monthly minimum but unused funds rollover rather than expiring and there are no monthly fees or taxes, which I believe makes it more cost effective than TalkForGood's Smart Plan for most users.

Update 28-Nov-2012: TalkForGood is now up and running. It's still not possible to activate online, but you can now call (888) 649-1713  to activate a phone and account  Only the pay as you go "Smart Plan" is available. Curiously, all references to the monthly "Peace Plan" seem to have been removed from the TalkForGood site. 

Update: 7-Dec-2012: You can now activate online. But all of TalkForGood's plans have changed. See  this post: Verizon MVNO TalkForGood's Monthly Plans Are Now Available for current information.

18 comments:

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  1. Given the $6 monthly access fee the lack of roll-over is moot on the $10 and $25 refills. The majority of the balance will be consumed by the service fee before it can expire. The $25 card would be the sweet spot on this plan. Up to 4 months of service with $1 airtime left over within the 120 day expiration period.

    I think a $6 monthly access fee is excessive for a pay as you go plan. The only way I'd accept that would be if it were a differential minimum usage fee; If you use less than $6 a month in airtime they charge you the difference up to $6. I don't know if any mobile providers use this model but some prepaid toll-road transponders work this way.

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    1. You might want to use Ting as a reference point, especially with regards to the monthly fee aspect.

      Cheers.

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    2. Ting does charge a $6 monthly fee and now TalkForGood is too. I hope this doesn't become the norm for pay as you go.

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    3. @Yeswap - I hope not. Hopefully consumers will shy away from pay as you go services with monthly fees. Encouraging providers to only charge for services actually used; to not bleed customers who are regularly using the service as per the minimum usage scenario; or to keep such fees more reasonable as per PlatinumTel and Page Plus at $.50/mo.

      @anon - I don't really consider Ting to be a pay as you go solution. They use a post-paid billing model where they sell you a "block" of service, they just tiered the block. (And they have split out the access fee that is normally part of the total monthly package) You pay $6 a month for access then your first minute, text, or MB costs you $3 each. The next 99 are "free". Your 101st minute, text, or MB, will cost you $6, $2, or $10 respectively. This continues as you progress through the remaining tiers. Your cost per minute, text, or MB will vary greatly based on what tier you end up in and how much of the block/tier that you actually use. If you end up in the low end of a given tier you end up paying a higher per unit rate having paid for the full tier.

      For example your first voice minute costs $3/min. It scales down to $.03/min once you reach 100 minutes. Then at 101 minutes your rate jumps up to nearly $.09/min and scales back down to $.03 at 300 mins and then down to $.018/min at 500. At 501 minutes your rate goes back up to about $.036/min... etc. Your rates are actually higher than this when you add in the monthly access charge and the monthly regulatory charges that are NOT included.

      I went off on a tangent there with the Ting billing but I guess my point is that pay-as-you-go rates should be simple, inclusive, and transparent. If they start chipping away at your balance outside of you using your phone then it's not really pay-as-you-go anymore.

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    4. @anon the second from anon the first. I am just pointing out that monthly fees is not new. Ting makes its money in many ways, especially since its handsets costs a premium over what a comparable device might go somewhere else. I never considered Ting because I like data and rarely use my voice minutes so Virgin's Beyond Talk is a good deal. If I had to join Ting, I would set all my buckets to zero and just pay for use while watching my marginal unit, respectively. In that regards, the $6 fee is just a charge for the right to use their network.

      Btw, my annual cell phone bill is $400 a year: $25 a month for Virgin with my Moto Triumph and $100 a year with Verizon prepay -- unlimited Verizon to Verizon calls for just $1 a day (because most of friends and family have Verizon).

      I never understand why people would pay almost $100 a month over a 2-year contract for an android device that will be obsolete in 6 to 9 months.

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  2. There are so many MVNO's in biz already and in the pipeline, with all networks, I betchya by this time next year half of them wont even be a memory.

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    1. This is precisely why I will be sticking with a long runner, Page Plus. I don't want to wake up one day with my phone shut off and my number lost because my carrier went out of business.

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  3. A question I noticed you always put these different mvno's but where can we find these, are they available in California or are they all different regions?

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    1. They all work in California. Most of the new MVNO's are online only, there is a link to their sites in my posts about them

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  4. Speaking of MVNO's, anyone knows what happened to Ultra mobile?? it a T-mobile MVNO that was supposed to be launched Oct 1st, are they dead before they were even born?

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    1. Ulta is based in New York City and Sandy has delayed the launch. Three hours ago Ultra posted this on their Facebook Page.

      "Our head of technology is walking 3 miles through Lower Manhattan to a colo right now so we can launch. He has no internet or power and we need to get him online for launch. The hurricane has pushed us back, but we will be up this afternoon. Hang tight Ultras."

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  5. Competition is good but I won't be leaving Page Plus Cellular. Page Plus is a mature business and is reliable. I'm not about to take leap of faith.

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  6. What is appealing about Talk For Good is the aspect of social responsibility ... something sorely missing in corporate America. Even more appealing is that the customer can choose the charity.

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  7. I'm glad to see a new (rare) Verizon mvno launch. That brings to date, three Verizon options including Page Plus and Talk For good , the third is Texas based Next G. My question is will the newbies be around in a year or three? I say stick with Page Plus and watch the newbies. Time will tell.

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  8. I agree that the $6 fee is a bit much. When it comes to rate structure, I think Pure TalkUSA still is the most flexible as far as BYOP MVNO's go...plus all of your minutes rollover with them. Haven't heard much about Ultra but will check them out.

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  9. It is great to be able to use a newer phone on TFG. I am happy with them. All the naysayers are PP employees.

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  10. Page Plus has a $100 termination fee. Avoid

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    Replies
    1. No true. Even if it was how could they collect when you only have to fund the account with $10 and don't have to give Page Plus your name, address or credit card.

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