Walmart and T-Mobile partner to offer handsets and data/voice plans without a contract.
Big-box retailer Walmart announced it would launch the Walmart Family Mobile
powered by network carrier T-Mobile, a brand of post-paid cell-phone service
that offers unlimited talk and text. Family Mobile
is a monthly plan available without a contract or multi-year commitment. The
service will be provided by T-Mobile over its nationwide network, and will be
sold exclusively by Walmart in nearly 2,500 stores starting Sept. 20. Activated
accounts come with a free preloaded 100MB WebPak, which provides access to the
Internet, for every line of service.
Every line comes with the company's Unlimited Talk & Text plan, and the
first line of service is $45 per month, and each additional line is $25 per
month. In addition, Family Mobile offers a selection of handsets from Samsung,
Motorola and Nokia-including phones with Google's Android Operating System (OS)
-with QWERTY keyboards, touch screens and other features. The company noted
that because there are no contracts, customers are able to upgrade their phones
anytime by purchasing a new handset with no fees or contract commitments.
"Walmart Family Mobile makes it more affordable to build meaningful
relationships with family and friends so that even when budgets are limited,
time spent communicating with loved ones isn't," said Greg Hall, vice
president of merchandising for Walmart U.S. "This plan provides families
with the flexibility to connect with each other without surprise charges and
with the added benefit of one of the most trusted wireless network
The WebPak is shared among all the lines on an account, and unused data
never expires. Additional WebPak refill cards are purchased upfront in stores
or online. The WebPak can also be used to make international calls to several
countries for as low as 5 cents per minute, according to a company release, as
well as to download ringtones, games and other apps.
"Walmart is known for great value, and we're pleased to offer our
robust network of nationwide coverage for Walmart Family Mobile," said Jim
Alling, chief operations officer for T-Mobile USA. "This new service is an
innovative approach, offering post-paid customers a low-cost alternative for
unlimited voice, messaging, Web and inexpensive international calling."
The company said it offers a family of three savings of up to $1,200 per
year compared with the leading national unlimited-talk and -text plans. That
claim was based on a comparison of comparable post-paid unlimited talk and text
family plans with three lines of service offered by AT&T and Verizon, with
data accumulated from the two companies this month.
This summer, Sprint began offering a new prepaid plan
through Walmart called Common Cents Mobile. The plan, based on prepaid cards,
gives customers the option of 30 days of service for $20 or 60 days of service
for $30. Each text and full minute of charge time will deduct 7 cents from the
total of the card. Prepaid plans can be particularly appealing to consumers
with an eye on a budget. While in the first quarter of 2010 Sprint lost 578,000
contract-based customers - which was fewer than in the previous quarter - it
gained 348,000 prepaid customers.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.