Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are an interesting business model. They are essentially resellers of one or more carriers’ spectrum. They buy bandwidth from their chosen carriers in bulk at a discount compared with the direct buying public, then pass on the savings to customers. From a customer perspective, we hope to gain the same network coverage and performance (and where we are using a MVNO that has deals with multiple carriers, we should see better coverage) combined with lower costs. Is there a compromise? There can be. Sometimes a carrier won’t allow the MVNOs access to the latest speeds or frequencies, which in recent years has meant that some customers have seen better deals going direct with the carrier rather than the reseller. The most common experience of this is the MNVO not offering access to a carrier’s LTE spectrum, so customers have not seen the same high speed data connections. And this is where Verizon enters the article, because they have finally given one of their partner MNVOs, Page Plus Cellular, access to their LTE network. Verizon have been cagey about sharing their LTE network and only granted their own direct prepaid customers access to it in July.
Page Plus Cellular was bought by TracFone Wireless earlier in the year, which also owns Straight Talk and are no strangers to managing LTE networks. According to TracFone, Page Plus “is now offering faster service to all customers who activate an LTE/CDMA phone on plans over $30.” This means that the $29.95 plan is excluded, which gives customers 1,200 minutes, 3,000 text messages and 500 MB of data. Page Plus Cellular’s $39.95 plan includes unlimited minutes, text messages and 1 GB of data, with prices and service running up to $69.95 for unlimited minutes, text messages and 5 GB of data. These prices are a little cheaper than Verizon’s own prepaid offerings, where you need to pay $50 for 1 GB of data and you $65 only gives you 3.5 GB.
Page Plus’ website makes no mention of LTE on the website or in official coverage maps, but we’ve heard that Page Plus dealers began receiving LTE SIM cards, which they’ve been able to activate, back in September. When questioned, TracFone did not comment on how long these plans have been available! Ultimately, the networks will need to provide access to their LTE networks as we move towards an Internet of Things world. It’s good to see Verizon finally releasing LTE to its network partners.