PTel to launch SIM-based tablet data plan this year

LAS VEGAS--T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) MVNO PTel Mobile plans to launch a tablet-focused, SIM-based data plan sometime this year. PTel executive Omar Abhari said the company plans to position its tablet data offering between 250 MB and 2 GB, an area he said is currently underserved. He said PTel's offering would include a pay-as-you-go element, though he declined to provide additional details.

The launch is notable considering AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) currently dominate the market for wireless service for tablets; according to NPD's Connected Intelligence division, AT&T serviced 49 percent of all tablets that connected to cellular networks in the first quarter, while Verizon came in second place with 42 percent. AT&T's prepaid tablet options include $15 per month for 250 MB of tablet data and 3 GB for $30 per month. Verizon's prepaid tablet pricing starts at $20 for 1 GB. However, both carriers also offer shared data plans where customers are able to add tablets to their existing smartphone data plan for $10 per month.

PTel's Abhari explained that there are relatively few options for tablet users who want to occasionally access a 3G or 4G connection in addition to Wi-Fi. Thus, he said PTel plans to offer additional pricing options to tablet owners via a SIM card they could install into their tablet.

"This is the thing that's missing," Abhari explained.

In other PTel news, Abhari said the MVNO is in the midst of building out its new GIV Mobile brand, which it launched last month. GIV mobile is a new MVNO brand from PTel that donates 8 percent of a user's monthly charges to a non-profit charity of the customer's choice. Abhari said sales of GIV Mobile continue to expand, and the company is currently working to identify non-profits to partner with to promote the offering.

Abhari also provided some metrics on PTel's sales. He declined to provide customer numbers, but said that PTel's sales are split evenly between the company's unlimited service offerings, which go for $40 and $50 per month, and its pay-as-you-go plans, which charge on a per-minute and per-message basis. Abhari also said that 60 percent of PTel's sales are via its website.

Further, Abhari said that 73 percent of PTel's sales are via its SIM-only offerings. PTel sells a range of Android smartphones and feature phones, and Abhari said the company would continue to offer its own range of phones, but Abhari noted that close to two-thirds of the company's customers are selecting PTel's SIM-only service and installing the SIM cards into their existing phones.

Finally, Abhari said that PTel continues to work on an advertising-supported wireless service. He said the service likely would insert a short ad between the time a customer places a call and when a recipient picks up the call. While PTel previously had hoped to launch the service in the third quarter of this year, Abhari said PTel now expects to launch that service in the first quarter of next year.

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