T-Mobile builds 5G muscle with Sprint union
Finally! T-Mobile is acquiring Sprint in an all-stock, merger and acquisition deal worth $26 billion.
In the 90s, companies sought to gain users by offering everything from free PCs to free dialup internet service (incredibly, still around). In the past few years, a trio of companies has tried offering limited free access to cellular service. Some of them provided good options for an emergency phone to, say, keep in a car if you happened to leave your main device at home or lose it or to give to a younger child who needed only occasional usage.
One by one, though, each has fallen by the wayside. An early entrant to drop off was RingPlus, a Sprint MVNO that offered 1,000 texts and minutes of voice as well as a gigabyte of data for free with a one-time $25 payment. However, the model could not be sustained, and the company went out of business in early 2017.
More recent attempts included CellNuvo and FreedomPop. CellNuvo wasn’t a carrier or MVNO, but an app that offered simple games that were played to earn credits that could be applied toward free phone service from the big national carriers. Earlier this year, though, users complained of their games offering lower payouts that made it more difficult to sustain free phone service, and its app was recently removed from the Google Play store. Its website, however, is still promoting the service.
That left FreedomPop, another Sprint MVNO that offered small allocations of talk, text, and data for free with a focus on upselling and viral marketing. In what may be a casualty of the proposed Sprint-T-Mobile merger, FreedomPop’s parent company sold off the service provider in order to make a bid for Boost Mobile, the Sprint brand that would be sold off should the merger be approved. As with RingPlus, FreedomPop customers have been transitioned to low-cost-but-not-free MVNO Ting. However, FreedomPop may not be the last of its kind as its former parent company is reportedly working on developing the tech that powered the free offering for potential use at Boost or other carrier brands.
The demise of these ad-supported mobile services has no bearing on services intended for those who need them most. Lifeline wireless services offered by carriers such as Safelink Wireless (owned by Tracfone) and Assurance Wireless (owned by Sprint) to low-income consumers who qualify for federal programs such as Medicaid and SNAP.
For others, some of the least expensive remaining choices come from MVNOs, such as Tello and US Mobile, which allow you to customize plans down to barebones levels. Tello, which requires a CDMA-capable phone, goes as low as $5 per month, which will net either 100 minutes of voice and unlimited texts and no data or 500MB of data with no voice or texts. US Mobile offers even more flexibility and lower floors, which start at monthly fees of $1.50 for 40 texts, $2 for 100MB of data, and $2,50 for 40 minutes of voice. The carrier also works with a broader range of phones. Both services may require an extra fee to obtain their SIM cards or compatible phones if you don’t have one.
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