Wireless Watch: Sprint's acquisition of Virgin Mobile could be risky

A decade ago, big wireless carriers steered clear of prepaid customers. In general, these users paid less per month than people who signed contracts, and didn't stay with their carriers as long. Further, they tended to be an unsavory group, often unable to pass a credit check.

However, as wireless plans become more expensive and recession-wary customers cut back on their expenses, the market for prepaid customers is looking better than ever. That's why Sprint Nextel (S), which already owns 13% of Virgin Mobile USA (VM), announced today that it will acquire the rest of the company for $483 million.