Amid prepaid losses, Verizon boosts prepaid data options, throttles video to 480p

The Google Pixel phone is one of many top smartphones available on Verizon's prepaid plans. (Verizon)

Verizon today sought to dust off its prepaid pricing following the introduction of an unlimited prepaid option in recent weeks. Specifically, the carrier slightly lowered the pricing for its prepaid plans and slightly increased the amount of data available in each plan. Furthermore, it said that it would limit video streams on the service to 480p quality.

Starting Tuesday, Verizon will offer three tiers of prepaid service below its $80-per-month unlimited prepaid option:

  • 3 GB for $40-per-month
  • 7 GB for $50
  • 10 GB for $60

Those prices represent a slight increase in data over Verizon’s previous options: 2 GB for $40, 5 GB for $50 and 10 GB for $70.

They are also largely in line with AT&T’s GoPhone-branded prepaid pricing and T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid pricing. AT&T’s GoPhone service offers 6 GB for $45 and unlimited service for $65. T-Mobile, meantime, offers 4 GB for $45 and 6 GB for $55. It’s also worth noting that both AT&T and T-Mobile focus most of their prepaid sales through their dedicated prepaid brands Cricket (for AT&T) and MetroPCS (for T-Mobile).

Verizon’s new pricing is just the latest tweak the carrier has made to its prepaid strategy. For example, in January, Verizon confirmed to FierceWireless that it is selling prepaid services through some exclusive dealers. And in February, the carrier added the 2 GB at $40-per-month option to its lineup.

Indeed, it appears Verizon has made increasing its prepaid allotments an annual practice: At almost this exact same time last year, the carrier boosted its $60 option to 6 GB (from 3 GB) and its $45 option to 3 GB (from 1 GB).

As noted by Wave7 Research, Verizon lost 17,000 prepaid subscribers in the first quarter, up from 9,000 in the fourth quarter of last year.

“This mildly negative performance represents significant improvement versus steep losses previously (e.g., -177K in 1Q16) and the improvement is due to increases in data with plans (particularly at Walmart), an effort to gain distribution via independent dealers, and increased 2016 advertising. There are 5.4M Verizon prepaid subscribers,” the firm wrote in a recent report.

Importantly, Verizon and the rest of the nation’s prepaid players may face new competition soon. Sprint’s CEO recently promised that the company’s delayed relaunch of its Virgin prepaid brand would include a “disruptive” offer from Apple. That statement has led some in the industry to speculate that Sprint may soon offer cheaper, used iPhones coupled with a less expensive unlimited service from its Virgin brand.