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Rumor: Target Shutting Down Brightspot Mobile

It looks like Target Stores may be pulling the plug on their Brightspot Mobile prepaid MVNO. At least that's what Target sales associate told one HowardForums user. The rumor is made more credible by a post on The Breakroom.org, an unofficial forum for Target employees that includes the text of a memo said to have been received by Target team leaders:

"Brightspot endcap: program will be discontinued and replaced with Bring your own device (byod).
Brightspot airtime will move inline to support a few additional months of service for guests. Airtime will come down in future revision."

A sales associate at my local Target also confirmed that he had heard that Brightspot was being shuttered although he didn't have any details about the timing.

There doesn't seem to be any official confirmation of a Brightspot shutdown or any word on what will happen to current Brightspot customers. Brightspot is a T-Mobile MVNO. If a shutdown does occur, I suspect that T-Mobile will absorb Brightspot's customers and grandfather their current plans.
 
If you are looking on a deal on a T-Mobile compatible phone, The Howard Forums user who reported being told of the shutdown also says all Brightspot phones are on sale for half price at their local Target store. Sale prices range from $19.99 for the ZTE Concord to $149.99 for the Samsung Galaxy SIII. Most but not all Brightspot phones were also on sale atthe Target store I visited today. The ZTE Concord II was marked down to $39.99 (reg $79.99), Nokia Lumia 635 LTE was $49.99 (reg $129.99) and the Fierce 2 $69.99 (reg $129.99). Most Brightspot phones are just T-Mobile phones in Brightspot boxes. They are locked to the T-Mobile network but will work on T-Mobile or any T-Mobile MVNO. The one exception I'm aware of is the Alcatel Fierce 2 which is reported locked to Brightspot and not usable on T-Mobile or T-Mobile MVNOs unless unlocked.

Target launched Brightspot in October, 2013 but it never seemed to gain much traction. Phone and plan prices were nothing special and I saw numerous complaints from customers about customer service issues including data plans that didn't restart with each new plan month and users not getting the Target Gift Cards they where promised for every six months they used Brightspot.

Source: HowardForums

47 comments:

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  1. Another One Bites The Dust!
    And Another One Gone!
    And Another One Gone!

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  2. The MVNO biz looks like it is near impossible to make money unless you can do the volumes of Carlos Slim. I don't see where any golden opportunities exist.

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  3. This news doesn't surprise me at all. I knew BrightSpot is not gonna last from the moment it hits the store shelves. But I will be looking forward to picking up a new Samsung Galaxy or one of the higher-end phones to replace my T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S 3 on the $30 secret plan!

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    1. Their $35 plan was the only good one (300 mins 3 GB), shame no LTE though.

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  4. Not surprising at all. BrightSpot's pricing is not at all competitive, even within Target's other prepaid offering. They tried to replicate Straight Talk/Walmart combo but failed on so many fronts.

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  5. If it were an AT&T MVNO it would probably had done better. T-Mobile still has 2G here in North East NC therefore useless as it goes. AT&T is even adding to their 4G LTE network to support more rural areas to compete with Verizon Wireless. Maybe they'll switch and rebrand their MVNO for either AT&T or Verizon since those are they have the largest coverage.

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    1. As an over the road truck driver, I'm noticing improvement in T-Mobile's network almost monthly.

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    2. The Chosen1 (New Wave Jazz, Electric Boogaloo)May 5, 2015 at 6:17 AM

      I doubt the decision to shut down Brightspot had anything to do with 3G or LTE in NE any Carolina. Cool story though. Branding T-Mobile as not having decent is tired and now old folks tale. T-Mobile has updated and expanded its coverage, your just repeating old tales I suspect. Anyway, the demise of Brightspot has more to do with timing. They opened up that business just before prepaid and even postpaid pricing got ultra competive. The plans were decent but the competive landscape moved too quickly and drastically. That's probably what really happened.

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    3. Legacy: It would make sense to have chosen another network that is present where all of the TARGET stores are.

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    4. " Branding T-Mobile as not having decent [coverage] is tired and now old folks tale."

      What's "tired" is the claim that they have good coverage compared to the big 2. It's old because T-Mobile keeps trotting out claims of improved coverage by years end... year after year... but it hasn't happened yet.

      "T-Mobile has updated and expanded its coverage"

      Yet, nothing shows any evidence of it. Not even their own maps. I look forward to when T-Mobile's poor coverage is an ancient folk legend. so we have a real third alternative. Until then....

      "Anyway, the demise of Brightspot has more to do with timing"

      Brightspot not being able to cover where the Target stores are surely didn't help.

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    5. I checked to see if T-Mobile coverage had improved any. on their own maps. I surveyed the Midwestern states, and found that coverage is still quite poor in almost all of them. Only Indiana having halfway decent coverage. The rest have just a smattering, leaving most of all the states with T-Mobile 2G or roaming.

      The real old wives tale is that T-Mobile has good coverage everywhere except real remote places where no-one lives.

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  6. My guess, Univision Mobile is the next one to go.

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  7. AT&T lost 266,000 reseller/MVNO subscribers in Q1 2015, after another loss in Q4 2014. Brightspot would have done worse as an AT&T MVNO. Their prices are already too high; they would have had to charge more, or lose money faster. It makes no sense for another national, big box chain MVNO to target rural customers; the duopoly already has almost all of them locked up, and charges relatively high prices to MVNOs. Walmart is Target's main competitor, and is well-intrenched as a multi-MVNO due to its huge volume agreements (Family Mobile and Straight Talk vs. Brightspot). AT&T is a distant third in prepaid, and Verizon is an even more distant fourth. If coverage is what matters most to prepaid buyers, the duopoly would be #1 and #2. Instead, T-Mobile is extending its lead in prepaid and Sprint is still growing, in both cases based on their overall value, which now includes much improved network coverage. The duopoly will work hard to keep their subscribers in postpaid, where they can extract the most money. Their MVNOs have to charge more and run so lean that customer service suffers, and with the current crop losing subscribers, it's a bad time to join that club.

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    1. It's a better time to join "that club" always compared to the club.

      Corporate shill stats about subscriber/gain loss won't make up for the fact that T-Mobile (and Sprint) have half the coverage of Verizon and AT&T. Coverage IS what matters most, because if you have no coverage, you can't use your phone (regardless of price, rollover data schemes, and color of carrier logo).. I myself used an inferior network with hardly any coverage for years because I didn't know any better.

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    2. Sprint 2015 Q1 numbers may be more proof that coverage alone is not driving prepaid growth. Sprint gained 546,000 prepaid net customer additions, compared to a net loss of 364,000 in the year-ago quarter. Sprint said the year-over-year improvement was >>mostly due to growth in the Boost Mobile brand.<<
      Sprint also added 492,000 wholesale/MVNO customers in the quarter, up from 212,000 additions a year ago, thanks in a large part to connected devices.
      Prepaid customers want overall value. Sprint and T-Mobile are delivering that, while AT&T and Verizon apparently are not.

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  8. It was a bad choice for them to go to T-Mobile. My local TARGET did not even offer BrightSpot, it didn't make sense for them to with 0 bars of coverage.

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    1. No AT&T coverage in your area? What a shame. You must really live out in the sticks. You are lucky to even have a local Target. ;-)

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    2. From Dennis: ".... Brightspot is a T-Mobile MVNO....."

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    3. You missed the ;-) There are no "0 bars of coverage" where Brightspot gives you free roaming on AT&T and regional carriers, like T-Mobile Prepaid, Family Mobile, MetroPCS, Consumer, Harbor, Solavei, Ting .....

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    4. Correction: no bars of coverage for data, for Brightspot. They give free roaming on AT&T for talk and text, but not data. The Brightspot plans, like most T-Mobile-based plans, are not the best idea if you want to use data at all.

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  9. I was called out awhile back for overly negative comments about coverage (or lack of) of certain mobile wireless providers. But I still see it is still quite common for these opinions to exist because the fact still exists. I know everyone isnt as keen on advertising illusions and magic tricks (I own two Mercury vehicles) but with so many identical companies offering the same thing, with a different name, some should catch on a little. What does any tmobile mvno offer over tmobile? Lower price, what are you giving up? Better device selection, I thought tmobile devices sans tracfone, worked on all tmobile mvnos?

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    1. They offer pretty much nothing.

      Ultra and Ptel are meh but good if you need just unlimited talk and text for cheap.

      T-mobile $30 plan and MetroPCS $60 plan are the only good cheap prepaid options on T-mobile can't beat 5 GB for $30 or unlimited data.

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    2. Harbor Mobile is offering a better value right now than T-Mobile itself.

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    3. Don't forget Consumer Cellular, Ting, UVA all offer innovative plans that T-Mobile does not. Plus Truphone, Family Mobile and GoSmart fill in gaps that T-Mobile does not cover. Dennis has done the work for you - all you have to do is click and read!

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  10. Archie said: "But I still see it is still quite common for these opinions to exist because the fact still exists."

    Yes. because some people keep offering quarterly carrier loss/gain figures when confronted with the cold hard immutable facts of coverage. The opinions you refer to come from the fact that when you turn on a T-Mobile-connected in most of the country, you get 0 bars (or- depending on your plan roaming options) some crippled data-free roaming... always given begrudgingly.

    Much of where you do find complete, in-network T-Mobile coverage (a small part of the country) is stone-age, snails-pace 2G...called "classic" by T-Mobile to make their extensive deficiency.

    In contrast for the two big carriers, in most of the country, you get 3G with generous in-network coverage.

    T-Mobile shills/fanboys keep referring to most of the country, covered well by other networks and not T-Mobile, dismissively, sticks/out of the way/unpopulated. The other companies don't make excuses for lousy service: they just provide coverage so they don't have to make excuses.

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  11. Since Brightspot didn't have LTE, is their Galaxy s3 the older non- LTE model, and is that their top of the line phone they ever offered?

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    1. Brightspot SIII was the T999L LTE version. I would have picked one up @1/2 off, but no guarantee to get it unlocked from Brightspot.

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    2. A 3rd party S3 unlock should cost $20 or less.

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  12. I'm quite happy the T-Mobile coverage bashers come out in force on every posting on every website that has a post published mentioning T-Mobile. It discourages data hogs from switching to T-Mobile, which is my main concern.

    I live in a city, I don't travel to the sticks, I don't drive through the vast swaths of unpopulated countryside, and I have great data speeds on T-Mobile, better than my home broadband connection and for less money. And no network congestion during otherwise peak periods.

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    1. +1. If anybody is a shill, it is our Tmo-basher(s). Apparently they cannot read maps, or do it with blind eyes. Here are the states I see on the D-T forecast map getting significantly more T-mo LTE this year: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, GA, IA, IL, ID, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, NC, ND, NH, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WI, WA. Lots of GSM 2G and roaming partner coverage areas will soon have T-Mo LTE. New 700 MHz* coverage in many areas will improve reception in buildings and extend the reception range from towers. Tmo goal is that 190M POPs by the end of 2015 will have LTE on 700 MHz; they are already operational in about 150 markets. Spectrum purchases like the just-closed nTelos coverage in eastern VA; the AWS and PCS swap with Verizon last year in 92 counties, 41 markets; the $2.4B purchase of Verizon 700 MHz A-Block spectrum last year; and the recent purchases from the FCC auctions will all support the expansion. And that's not all. AT&T is finally working on Band 12-17, 700 MHz compatibility with Tmo and regional carriers, and we will see phones that can handle both late this year. With these phones, Tmo customers will be able to roam on the AT&T LTE network, since Tmo won't have to pay an arm and leg to AT&T any more (thanks to the recent FCC roaming ruling). *You’ll need a handset like the 7 phones and Samsung tablet T-mo offers that support Band 12.

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    2. "....forecast.... will soon....will improve.... goal....late this year... will be able to"

      None of which actually exists or described a current reality. Our eyes have gotten used to impossibly rosy T-Mobile coverage predictions that year by year never materialize.

      Excuse us for not looking at maps of possible future situations that have as much to do with current reality as a map of Narnia.

      In any case, when confronted with facts about T-Mobile's currently bad coverage, all you can do is shift the discussion away from the unfortunate current reality to possible future wonderland that has been predicted before but never happened then either.

      And also odd that you accuse those of sticking to the facts of the matter as "bashers". We simply see T-Mobile as it is, nothing more, nothing less. I will readily say how great T-Mobile coverage compared to US Cellular as I say how bad it is compared to Verizon. Just sticking with reality, not possible futures.

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    3. "....I live in a city, I don't travel to the sticks...."

      Most cities don't have T-Mobile coverage at all. Lucky you.

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  13. Except Duetch doesn't want TMO USA, do we know something they don't?

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    1. You haven't kept up? DT is very pleased with the performance of TMUS and its CEO. Over the past 2 years they deployed their new, fast LTE network ahead of schedule, increased subscribers from 33M to ~57M, took the lead in prepaid away from Sprint and were the only major carrier in the US to earn a profit in Q4, 2014. Virtually all of the financials are looking up. DT turned down a buyout offer from a French mobile company, and now says they will only sell at a price that reflects the improved value of TMUS.

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  14. Easy solution regarding coverage: if it works for you, great, there are plenty of worthy options. If not, there are three other major cell phone providers to choose from. But not working for you personally doesn't mean that it can't possibly work for anyone else. And on the flip side, none of the cell phone providers can cover everyone's needs 100% of the time, so what works for you may not necessarily work for someone else.

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    1. I agree; that is what Dennis has always recommended.
      According to the US Census Bureau, the population of Montana is .003 of the population of the US, yet the state has .041 of the land mass. 6.8 people per square mile, versus 87.4 people, the average for the whole US. Some people who post here say that Sprint and T-Mobile are really not national carriers because they do not cover the whole US with cellphone towers, including places like Montana (or, at least as many towers as the big two, which is how they define "national"). 'Look at the maps! White spots are BAD! Don't buy from them. You might go to Montana some day and get zero bars!' Building towers virtually everywhere would be a terrible business decision; it would bankrupt Sprint and T-Mobile, even if they wanted to do it. It's not just the tower cost, but its operations, maintenance, repair and upgrade costs. T-Mobile and Sprint are being smart businesses, leveraging the big two and regional carriers' networks in places where off-network roaming rates justify the extra coverage; building or renting tower space where the potential traffic warrants the investment and expenses; enabling voice over WiFi, and deploying small cells, home cell extenders and WiFi unloading where these technologies makes good sense. T-Mobile, for example, already owns more towers than any of the other major carriers. Not a good use of their capital; all four big carriers are actually selling their towers and renting them back in many locations to free up capital for other investment. This is the smart business approach, as opposed to a naive fantasy that would kill their businesses. And it's working for Sprint and T-Mobile.

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    2. Where did you find a listing of the number of towers each operator has?

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  15. It's not just Montana. If you look at the states east of the Mississippi, TMO coverage is poor in moat if them. Most of these states are mostly uncovered by the uncarrier. While the so called Duopoly has the opposite situation: extensive coverage in just about all these states. A truly better value, and the customers agree.

    With the exception of a few very exceptional areas in the empty West such as Montana, the Big 2 have no problem building towers "virtually everywhere". And they are much much more successful as a a result, having far many more subscribers.

    Also, to the "haven't kept up" person, TMO hasn't taken any lead: it is still behind Sprint. That's the reality, not wishful thinking. So much wishful thinking here, but when you step back, TMO provides poor coverage and a poor value as a result, and the customers numbers agree.

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  16. "T-Mobile, for example, already owns more towers than any of the other major carriers. Not a good use of their capital..."

    If they distributed them better, they'd probably be Number 1, then, instead of Number 4.

    " And it's working for Sprint and T-Mobile. "

    As long as always running way in the back of the pack means "working", you are right.

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    1. It takes more 1900 or 1700 Mhz towers to cover a given area than it does with 850 Mhz towers. Until recently all T-Mobile towers were 1900 and 1700 Mhz. The having a higher tower density has the advantages of greater capacity and faster speeds.

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  17. Looking at a map and other information of Target stores, only a fraction of them have the T-Mobile network.

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  18. T-Mobile coverage is improving, and I'll prove it with my own biased anecdotal tidbit: Monroeville, AL now has 4G LTE coverage in magenta.

    Why the hell does Monroeville, a town about 100 miles centered between Mobile and Montgomery, matter? Well, as a near lifelong resident who's commuted in and out of town to get things done, I can attest to our town being the last to get new or updated Walmarts, Sonic's, etc. And both AT&T and Verizon LTE coverage only existing here for the last three years at most.

    Also, I'm a bit of a nerd: A T-Mobile subsidiary has owned a tower near the airport with 2G coverage, and the newest TMo maps show that as the place originating 'strong indoor LTE coverage ' across the center of the county. Knowing friends and family visiting from out of town, I know that their previous trips rendered their phones to 2G poser slates, but THIS year has shown dramatic improvements.

    I don't hold any hope of Sprint reaching here, as you've got to hit the interstate to catch any of its native spectrum. So there, T-Mobile IS getting better...they have a presence in one of the most backwoods redneck villages of Alabama. Could've been skipped...but they didn't!

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    1. "So there, T-Mobile IS getting better...they have a presence in one of the most backwoods redneck villages of Alabama. Could've been skipped...but they didn't!"

      That's good news. Despite what the T-Mobile shills say, places like Alabama (overall a reasonably densely populated state) do matter. Yes, speaking to those who think that T-Mobile coverage would be sufficient as long as every town that had an IKEA in the US had one, and no where else did. Alabama is not Montana.

      By the way, it wasn't clear from your comment.... did you have ANY T-Mobile coverage before this?

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  19. https://twitter.com/AskTarget/status/596262397226123264

    exit88 ‏@exit88 10h10 hours ago
    @AskTarget The internet says Brightspot Mobile is closing. What happens to those of us with Brightspot phones and service?


    AskTarget
    ‏@AskTarget
    @exit88 No worries! We have no plans for closing Brightspot. You can expect the same great Brightspot coverage in the future. Thanks!

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    1. I just got a notice on my phone that I purchased from Target and have the Bright Spot T-Mobile service that it will be discontinued. I was sent information on my phone to contact a new service via the internet, to stay connected. When I put in the contact information there is no such address. Now what do I do???

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  20. Anyone know if the Brightspot Galaxy SIII has the proper bands for optimal use on AT&T, assuming of course one can get an unlock code somehow?

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    1. The T-Mobile/Brightspot Galaxy s3 SGH-T999L supports the same bands as the AT&T model SGH-I747 plus UTMS 1700. both only support LTE b2 and b4 not AT&T's newer b2 and b5

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