Selectel Wireless shook up the prepaid industry by offering the signature feature of unlimited free off-network voice roaming. Until then other Verizon MVNOs and even Verizon Prepaid itself had either not offered voice roaming or else changed extra, typically 25 or 29 cents per minute for roaming calls. Free roaming got a Selectel a lot of attention and positive press and undoubtedly help them grow quickly.
Free roaming was Selectel's killer feature, but now they are doing away with it. In a message to dealers today, Selectel announced that starting tomorrow new activations and port-ins would be on the Verizon "prepaid platform", which does not include roaming. Roaming calls on the prepaid platform will cost 25¢ per minute. Customers who wish to make calls in roaming areas need to purchase a $10 Flex Card to cover the roaming charges. Click the image to read Selectel's message to dealers
Current Selectel customers will be migrated to the prepaid platform starting sometime in the next two weeks. According to Selectel, after migration 3G phones will require OTA programming and the customer will have to make a call to complete the process. Customers with LTE phones won't have to do anything.
Not only will roaming cost more on the prepaid platform but it will also be more cumbersome. On the postpaid platform placing a call while roaming is no different than making a non-roaming call. On the prepaid platform "double-dialing" is required. With double dialing, after placing a call from contacts or dialing a number you are prompted to dial the number again. That's a bit of a pain, especially when you don't remember a contact's actual phone number.
Roaming on Verizon is complicated. Everyone, prepaid, MVNO and postpaid alike can send and receive text messages at no extra cost while roaming. Postpaid, prepaid and MVNO customers with LTE phones also get no extra cost LTE data-only roaming on the 21 regional networks that participate in Verizon's LTE in Rural America (LRA) program. It gets really complicated with voice roaming. For postpaid customers, Verizon brands roaming as the "Verizon Extended Network" and everything works just like it does on Verizon native coverage. On prepaid, the extended network becomes "Prepaid Roaming" where calls are not possible on some MVNOs and require double dialing and cost extra on others.
Back in January when Selectel first warned dealers that roaming was going away they said that the change would allow Selectel to offer more competitively priced plans. In the January announcement Selectel also said that they might offer users a small roaming credit. However today's message says nothing about more competitive plans or a roaming credit. That's not good as Selectel's plans, listed below, are generally more expensive than most other Verizon MVNOs.
|Plan||Duration||LTE Available, LTE Devices Allowed?||Voice||Messaging||Data|
|$15||30 Days||No||300 Minutes||300 Texts||15 MB|
|$17 Home Connect 3||30 Days||No||1000 Minutes||none||none|
|$20||30 Days||Yes||500 Minutes||500 SMS||2.5 MB 1|
|$30||30 Days||Yes||1500 Minutes||Unlimited||1 GB|
|$40||30 Days||Yes||Unlimited||Unlimited||2 GB|
|$55||30 Days||Yes||Unlimited||Unlimited||5 GB|
|$70||30 Days||Yes||Unlimited||Unlimited||7 GB|
|$75 Yearly Plan||365 Days||No||2000 Minutes||2000 Texts||None|
|$100 Yearly Plan||365 Days||Yes||2000 Minutes||2000 Texts||2.5 MB 1|
|$10 Flex Card 2||Never Expires||Yes 2||5¢/min||5¢/ea||5¢/MB|
2 The $10 Flex Card can be used to add additional data, minutes or texts to any plan except the $20 or $100 plans at the rate of 5¢ per minute, message or MB of data. It's not a standalone plan and must be used together with a monthly or yearly plan. The Flex Card balance never expires.
3 The Home Connect plan is intended for fixed wireless home phone devices but also works with non-LTE mobile phones. A Flex card can be used to add texts, data or extra minutes.
The loss of roaming puts Selectel at a competitive disadvantage. Competitors like Ecomobile, Best Cellular, Boom Mobile and the various TracFone companies beat Selectel in value at most price points. For users who need the Verizon network with roaming, Boom Mobile plans even include voice and data roaming. Selectel never offered data roaming. Unless Selectel adds value to its plans to make up for the loss of roaming, I think they will have a hard time attracting and keeping customers.