Sprint Targets Text-Mad Teens With New Unlimited Plans

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teen with phoner u going 2 ck it out? Sprint (S) unveiled new prepaid pricing plans for unlimited texting Thursday, in a move that reflects the changes in how we communicate.

Under its Beyond Talk prepaid plans that target young adults and teens, Sprint is offering unlimited messaging, email data and Web for $25 a month. And in a sign that acknowledges how irrelevant voice communication seems to be with this age group these days, this plan only includes 300 minutes of voice per month.

Teen Texting Trends

Gone are the days when parents lamented that their teens were hogging the phone. That was replaced by over-the-top cellular bills as these teens migrated to their own mobile phones, followed by outlandish texting bills. As carriers addressed parents' pleas for ways to rein in costs for teens' communication, unlimited and prepaid became highly sought-after plans.

"Our new offers target a continuing evolution in wireless consumer behavior -- increased use of text and data services as a form of wireless communication over talk," Dan Schulman, Sprint's prepaid group president, said in a statement.

From 2007 to 2009, mobile subscribers between 18 to 34 used 10% less voice minutes, while messaging jumped more than 150%, according to data from Nielsen Customer Value Metrics.

School Crackdowns

And then, there's the teens.

In February, 2008, 38% of teens were texting daily, with that figure soaring to 54% in September, 2009, according to a Pew Research Center report. And half of these teens send 50 or more texts a day, while one in three send 100 or more. Parents may wonder when there's time for school, but two things are in their favor: Schools are cracking down on cell-phone use, and text messages are short.

Sprint, as part of its Beyond Talk plans that will roll out on May 12, is also offering a $40 prepaid unlimited messaging, email, data and web plan that will include 1,200 minutes of voice, as well as a $60 plan that carries the same services but with unlimited voice.

Will Wireless Rivals Follow?

Prepaid plans are gaining further traction in these recessionary times, but Sprint is banking on it continuing through a recovery.

"In the first quarter of 2010, more than half of the mobile gross additions in the U.S. selected prepaid, and we predict that approximately 70% of the net adds in 2010 will choose plans without a contract," Schulman said.

He added that prepaid mobile plans have moved beyond the economically challenged to those with specific needs. Prepaid customers include infrequent mobile-phone users and parents who are looking for a cheap, controllable solution to their children's texting needs.

Meanwhile, as Sprint prepares to roll out its new pricing plan, consumers should be prepared to see similar action among its competitors. Like the fast-food restaurants and corner gas stations, the telephone carriers are usually quick to match the competition.
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