Sprint Revamps Prepaid Internet service

Sprint’s second foray into prepaid Internet cards, unleashed Friday, puts its
service plan on par with the many other companies targeting an ever-growing
crowd travelers and infrequent Internet surfers clamoring for the service.

With rates starting at 480 minutes for $9.99 a month, all the way up to
2,000 minutes for $29.99, it’s an Internet option that’s quickly becoming
as popular as conventional Internet services.

Henry Goldberg, a senior analyst at Cahner’s In-Stat Group, is just as
surprised as many others in the industry. In a recent study he predicts
the prepaid Internet services market, which stands at $10 million today,
will grow to $280 million in 2005.

“It turns out there are a surprisingly large number of potential
customers,” he said. “Prepaid Internet service providers are targeting
travelers, consumers without credit, infrequent to moderate users of
Internet service,
parents controlling the time their children spend online and people with
privacy concerns.”

But no one’s more surprised than Sprint officials, who have scrambled to
put together a service that takes advantage of the growing popularity of
the service and makes it competitive with an ever-growing list of companies
selling prepaid Internet cards.

Sprint’s initial prepaid plan doled out a meager three hours of Internet
service for $10 and had some kinks in the system. Several other companies
came out with prepaid services at about the same time all had better
service plans than Sprint”

  • AT&T <, one of its primary competitors with prepaid phone
    cards, recently came out with rates ranging from eight hours at $9.99 to 30
    hours at $29.99

  • MaGlobe has a service plan, geared mainly for corporate types and
    business travelers, that provides 15 hours of prepaid Internet for $14.99
    all the way up to $499 for 500 hours

  • Slingshot gives customers the most bang for the buck, giving prepaid
    Internet card buyers 600 minutes for $10

  • Inconet customers can choose from four hours of service for $10 or 10
    hours for $20.

But Sprint quickly recovered, signing deals with nationwide franchises to
get the cards out in the mainstream and making improvements to its dialer
software and Web interface.

7-Eleven conducted field tests of a sort at some of its stores earlier this
year, which Sprint officials used to enhance and improve their set up
process. With prepaid Internet cards, customers are required to install a
dialer program using a CD-ROM and use the login and password found on the
Internet card.

Tim McCallum, 7-Eleven Inc. product director of services, said Sprint’s
plan is now ready to run at the 5,200 convenience stores nationwide.

“Sprint Prepaid Internet offers Internet users value and convenience, so
it’s a perfect fit for 7-Eleven stores,” he said. “Based on our test in
San Diego and the enhancements made to the product, we think customer
response will be tremendous as we launch Sprint Prepaid Internet in our
stores across the
country.”

Sprint has also signed contracts with college bookstore franchise Follet
Bookstores and will sell prepaid Internet cards at all its Sprint PCS
stores throughout the country.

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