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Simple Mobile and T-Mobile Prepaid Again Top Wave7 Dealer Survey

Wave7 Research has  released  the results of its latest Independent Prepaid Dealer Survey, which was conducted in late February.  The survey asked 30 independent, multi-brand dealers in 20 NFL cites which prepaid operators they carried and which were the most popular.

The most popular operator with the dealers surveyed was once again Simple Mobile which was sold by 26 out of 30 dealers. Simple Mobile was the best brand selling brand as well. It was the top seller at 12 dealers and second best at 10. This is the fifth quarter in a row that Simple Mobile has been the top operator in availability and sales in Wave 7's survey.

Wave7 awarded second place to T-Mobile Prepaid which has a presence in 17 stores and was the top seller at 10 of them.

H2O, Ultra Mobile, Net10, GoSmart and PagePlus rounded out the top seven in availability. H2O and Ultra Mobile were the top sellers at one dealer each.

Verizon Prepaid, which launched a dealer program last Spring, was carried by 7 dealers, compared with only one last quarter.

Boost Mobile and MetroPCS are mainly sold though exclusive dealerships rather than the multi-carrier ones Wave7 surveyed. Nonetheless, Boost was available at 7 surveyed stores and was the top seller at two of them. MetroPCS was sold by 2 stores and was the top seller at one.

Telcel America, Univision Mobile and Airvoice were found in a few stores but were not top sellers at any.

AT&T GoPhone, Red Pocket, EasyGo, Eco Mobile, and Rok Mobile which were found at one store each but were rated also-rans in sales by the dealers that carried them.

Selectel, Mango Mobile, Expo Mobile and Butterfly, all of which had a minor presence in Wave7's Q4, 2016 dealer survey are no longer carried by any of the dealer's surveyed.

See the table below for the full results of the survey.

Wave7 Independent Prepaid Dealer Survey for 1Q17
Prepaid Carrier Presence among 30 dealers 1stplace 2ndplace 3rdplace Also-ran
Simple Mobile 26 12 8 3 3
Net10 21 0 2 4 15
T-Mobile Prepaid 17 10 2 1 4
H2O Wireless 17 1 4 4 8
GoSmart 16 0 3 2 11
Ultra Mobile 15 1 3 5 6
PagePlus 14 1 2 1 10
Lycamobile 11 2 0 7 2
Telcel America 8 0 1 0 7
Boost Mobile 7 2 4 0 1
Verizon Prepaid 7 0 0 0 7
Univision 3 0 0 0 3
MetroPCS 2 1 1 0 0
Airvoice 2 0 0 0 2
Others GoPhone, Red Pocket, EasyGo, Eco Mobile, and Rok Mobile were available in one store each. All were ranked as also-rans by the dealers who carried them

For me, two things stand out in the survey. First, six out of the top ten operators (Simple Mobile, T-Mobile Prepaid GoSmart, Ultra Mobile, Lycamobile and Telcel America) are T-Mobile based.  Secondly,  five out of the top ten operators are TracFone brands (Simple Mobile, Net10, GoSmart, PagePlus and Telcel America).

I'm not surprised by the popularity of T-Mobile MVNOs. The T-Mobile network performs very well in most cities and T-Mobile MVNOs generally offer more better value than their AT&T based rivals.

TracFone is the dominant MVNO in the US and its brands are better known than most of the independent MVNOs. I hear a lot of grumbling from dealers about TracFone's poor dealer support and shrinking commissions but that doesn't seem convinced may dealers to abandon them.


Comment Page :
  1. This report looks like bad news for Selectel and Expo, which built their channel strategy around dealers. Perhaps Verizon service is not needed any more by most customers in these NFL cities. Expo should have been able to compete there, but their monthly plans are overpriced.

  2. Why Net10? Their plans and PayGo are not very competitive.
    Are they still paying dealers good commissions, unlike other América Móvil brands?

  3. My dealer dropped Expo, and added Boost and Real.

  4. ". The T-Mobile network performs very well in most cities "

    I wonder what percent of America's 20,000 cities this is? Looking at their recent coverage map, it wouldn't be surprising if T-Mobile finilly covers most cities at last. But there's no chance Sprint covers most cities.

    1. I spent a couple of hours researching this last year, after Tmo added 1M square miles of geo coverage and advertised 304M Pops. They are at 314M Pops now.

      There are 497 urban areas in the US, according to the 2010 Census. The 20 smallest urban areas, from Pascagoula, MS to Farmington, NM all have T-Mobile coverage. This leaves about 3,500 more cities (population between 10000 and 50000). I checked the Census and looked at those, too. Checking the 20 smallest Census “metro areas” of at least 10,000 people, from Heber, UT to Fairfield IA, only one, Fitzgerald, GA did not have solid coverage (it was spotty). That leaves about 31,000 towns and villages, with population below 10,000. It sounds like a lot, but many are in suburbs or exurbs of larger metro areas. Since T-Mobile now covered 304M people with LTE last year out of 330M in the USA (92% then, 95% now), I expect that almost all "cities" have T-Mobile coverage by now, and a significant percentage of towns (below 10,000 people) will as well.
      There will be some exceptions, of course.

    2. Just remember that the statistic of covering 314 or whatever million people doesn't mean a lot for mobile, since it is home-addressed based. Mobile phones are mobile, and people leave their houses. And they don't teleport between cities: they travel between them on freeways, highwayso, blue highways, state highways, paved, and dirt roads.

      The square miles of "geo" coverage, which you mention, is what matters unless you seek landline replacement only. T-Mobile is doing a better job now of coverage "the area", not just pinpoints.

    3. Well, all the carriers use PoPs to measure their coverage. Make sense to them, because they need to get a return on their network investments. They deploy where people live, work and visit in adequate numbers to justify the expense. I would do the same thing. Any carrier that just deployed to fill in all places on a US map would run out of $capex in a hurry and go bankrupt.

      Verizon does this too. They have big holes in WV and western VA, and have for the past 10 years. They won't even pay for Sprint roaming there. My boss had to dump 3 Verizon contract phones and switch to Sprint, the only carrier at his new house. It took 7 years to get AT&T coverage. 9 years later he could get Tmo Band 12. Still no Verizon, even on the postpaid extended network.

    4. I always wonder why some people get their panties in a twist because somebody else uses a prepaid provider that suits their needs.

    5. That's all fine. but now, when someone insists that bad coverage is good, and that no one needs good coverage...

  5. These dealerships are as necessary I today's world as VHS rental places, fax repair shops and film developing labs.

    Order online, or go to a big box store that actually values your business (and doesn't present you with a CLOSED sign most of the hours of the day).

    1. I don't agree. These dealers are selling convenience in the neighborhood and personal service. They know their customers. They accept cash, and probably money orders.
      There will always be room in the market for dealers. I suspect Am Movil's big, recent subscriber losses reflect significant blowback for their screwing of loyal dealers who grew that company for so long.

    2. " a big box store that actually values your business "

      Thank you. I needed a laugh today.

    3. The big box stores that actually value your business are open for you when you need them. Customer-hostile dealers open at 10 AM and close at 5, giving customers their version of the middle finger: the closed sign, the rest of the time.

    4. Yes, by all means go in and get warm. And with any luck, Joe the trained Boost expert or Marcella the Univision pro will be there to try to help you.
      Otherwise, you can always come back. Their doors will be open for you.

    5. too bad mr. closed-sign-in-face cannot make it to the dealer store in time when he is at work. how about trying weekends? if not, then too bad too sad.

    6. No, It just go instead to a store that actually wants my business.

    7. Dealers want you business. Big box store employees want to sell you something that has a big spiff. They will often make up things and even argue with you to get their spiff. If you need free help, good luck. You will wait, or be passed around and wait longer.
      The only staff worse than our Best Buy stores are the staff at Verizon stores. You take a number, even if you just have a quick question. You wait in line, while 6 or 7 employees stand around, joke and gossip. When they finally get around to it, you can tell they don't want to deal with prepaid customers (no spiff). And then it's take-it-or-leave-it; we're Verizon. Get postpaid like everybody else.

    8. "Dealers want you business. Big box store employees want to sell you something that has a big spiff"

      Ummm. Dealers and others in the retail and service industr both want your business. That is how they stay in business.

      "They will often make up things and even argue with you to get their spiff."

      My experience with that is that the dealers do this much more often than the big box store guys.

      I was once at a Boost dealership arguing with the bonehead that insisted that Boost and Virgin (which he insisted was owned by a stand-up comedian) weren't on the same network at all, and any bad experience with Virgin won't happen at all on Boost: different network backbone. He also said the Sprint network had recently improved a lot (which it hadn't).

      Then I can cross the street to Walmart, and find very knowledgable people who know the networks, and aren't fantasists. When I first hard of Walmart Family Mobile, I talked to one of those Walmart guys. He told me that even though they sold it, I shouldn't get it, because the coverage was terrible. Honesty. Like you won't ever get at a much smaller place with the carrier's logo over the door.

      Boost: We can only get your business if we lie our heads off about the network.

  6. It's clear that Sprint's channel strategy of Fall, 2014 to switch Virgin dealers' customers to Boost has failed. These customers moved to big box stores, the website or just left Sprint brands.

  7. "A middle man in middle way
    between the darkness and the dark,
    the seasons have tremendous sway:
    I change like chestnuts in the park.
    Come winter, I'll be branches, bones;
    come spring, a wetness over stones."

    -Lament of the Middleman.

  8. I have Airvoice and am more than satisfied. Who cares what the dealers think and do when it is the customer ultimately that makes the decision.

    1. I use AirVoice too. Like you, probably, I found them on my own.
      Most prepaid customers do not read this blog. They do not read HoFo. They likely found prepaid through a list in a news article, TV ad, major brand website or word of mouth. Perhaps though a referral to a friend's dealer.

      I started with prepaid through major brands, then discovered HoFo and a very good PagePlus dealer. The dealer added value providing discounts and free services that were more convenient than PagePlus. They saved me time and money. YMMV but many people benefit from dealers. The less they know about the details of prepaid, the more they can benefit.

    2. I used a dealer for Selectel. They saved me $15 on activation and gave me a 3% discount on all my airtime. They will text or email me the cash balance on my data add-on so I don't have to waste time calling Selectel. Definitely worth it for me.

    3. I used a dealer for Selectel. My phone one stopped working because the dealer bungled the account information. Another time they entirely vanished for 3 weeks (store closed, never answering phones or emails). They never explained. I ditched Selectel not long after.

  9. Simple Mobile works on T-Mobile phones as well as byod/unlocked phones, questions is do they support VoLTE/Wi-Fi calling?

    1. Wifi calling yes, not sure about VoLTE but I'd imagine so.

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