VeriSign is launching a new service that will allow carriers to offer customers with prepaid accounts access to the same value-added services as postpaid customers.
In many cases, prepaid wireless customers are limited to basic services such as voice calls and SMS messages.
Services such as special ring tones, Internet access or multimedia messages are usually not available because billing hasnt been available.
VeriSigns PrePayIN, a suite of commerce applications for the wireless industry, would solve that.
“This allows the carrier to have prepaid accounts that will allow them to deplete funds from the customers account to pay for those services,” said Todd Fenley, director of product management for VeriSign.
Fenley said that the prepaid market has moved beyond just people who cant establish credit.
“Growing segments of the prepaid market are youth, attuned to doing real-time payments,” he said.
He added that those customers are used to technology, and expect to pay for features in a prepaid environment.
“Theres also the cost control group such as businesses that want to offer services to their employees, but dont want employees to add to their risk,” Fenley said.
Fenley noted that the new PrePayIN suite is designed to simplify things for carriers, which in turn means its more likely that theyll offer the new services to their customers.
“This allows the carrier to have efficiencies that will help their bottom line,” he said.
“Typically pre-paid customers are the red-headed stepchildren of wireless,” said analyst Roger Entner.
He noted that they often have what he called “irregular income streams.”
He said that this has meant that those people couldnt use mobile data services, for example.
Entner, who is vice president, Wireless Telecom, with the London-based technology research and consulting company Ovum, said PrePayIN should be attractive to wireless carriers.
“It makes the same features people like on postpaid services available on prepaid,” Entner said. “People dont have to give up services that theyve grown to like,” he added.
Entner said that the new PrePayIN suite is really a total solution for wireless companies because it will also handle billing for postpaid customers.
The difference is that its able to tell which customers pay their bills monthly according to usage or some other plan, and which are using prepaid phones.
“Its a billing platform that gets all of the call records when you send SMS, MMS, pictures, ring tones, etc., and associates that with your account and bills you for it,” Entner said.
“If its prepaid, it subtracts the balance from your account and informs you when youre out. If youre out, it doesnt let you use it until you recharge, and it will recharge your account for you,” he said. “On a postpaid account, it sends the bill,” he added.
Entner said that he expects PrePayIN to be popular with wireless companies worldwide since VeriSign has a global presence and is popular in the United States.
“They have quite a few smaller carriers in the U.S., so it benefits everyone all around,” he said.