United States Cellular(R) Corp. (USCC), the eighth largest cellular provider in the United States in terms of population equivalents, has become the latest carrier to adopt the SmartPay Wireless(TM) prepay product.
In addition to SmartPay, United States Cellular has switched its denied roaming service to American Roaming Network. Both SmartPay and American Roaming Network are products offered by Dallas-based National Telemanagement Corp. (NTC).
United States Cellular has begun deployment of its prepay service known as TalkTracker, in its South Texas markets and expects to roll out TalkTracker in several additional markets over the next six months. TalkTracker allows United States Cellular to meet the needs of new customer segments such as those who are unwilling to sign long-term contracts, concerned about controlling their wireless spending, or without perfect credit records.
With NTC’s SmartPay system, United States Cellular TalkTracker subscribers will have seamless, automatic roaming in all of the company’s coverage areas, as well as in the areas served by the American Roaming Network roaming partners.
When roaming in these American Roaming Network areas, the dialing pattern for the SmartPay subscriber is the same as it is for a traditional cellular subscriber; there are no additional digits to dial and charges are deducted real-time from the subscriber’s prepaid account.
The call is disconnected when the account balance reaches zero, even if the subscriber is roaming at the time. The NTC equipment is installed at each USCC switch, eliminating the need and expense associated with backhauling each call.
“United States Cellular selected NTC as its prepay vendor for three reasons,” said Patrick Herron, director of product and business development for United States Cellular. “NTC provides a superior technical solution. They enable true prepaid roaming and their solution allows United States Cellular to provide its own customer service, which is critical to our mission to be the first choice service provider in the wireless industry.”
“TalkTracker will provide a great lift for all our distribution channels,” said Sean Alexis, product development manager for United States Cellular. “Our service is easy for customers to understand. It works on any phone and it’s priced fairly. Customers have responded well to TalkTracker in South Texas and we anticipate excellent results in the rest of our markets.”
To initiate TalkTracker service, a consumer either brings in or purchases a cellular phone and establishes an account at a United States Cellular store or participating authorized agent. Immediately, the customer may place and receive calls like a traditional cellular customer. There are no PIN codes to enter, no debit cards to buy, and the subscriber does not forfeit unused funds after a predetermined period.
Replenishing the account is simple and can be done at any TalkTracker sales location or participating SmartPay replenishment location including check cashing and convenience stores. Customers may also add money to their accounts automatically using a credit card as they make calls through NTC’s voice response unit.
TalkTracker customers are reminded of a low account balance once it reaches a set level, or they can check their balance at any time by dialing #369 from their cellular phone.
“Convenience is the key,” said Roger Boivin, executive vice president for National Telemanagement. “Our experience has shown that allowing prepaid subscribers to automatically roam and having locations to replenish their account while roaming can significantly increase carrier revenue and lower churn.”
The SmartPay system allows carriers to establish a variety of calling plans for home use and roaming, and to offer peak/off-peak pricing, free minutes and free calling on holidays. The system also can be partitioned for resellers.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome United States Cellular to the growing family of SmartPay Wireless providers and to American Roaming Network,” said Boivin. “This agreement greatly broadens the availability of SmartPay and significantly increases the coverage area for automatic prepaid roaming.”
United States Cellular, based in Chicago, manages and invests in wireless systems throughout the country. The company provides service to more than 1,328,000 customers in 141 markets and owns interest in 50 additional markets. United States Cellular’s common stocks are traded on the American Stock Exchange under the symbol USM.
National Telemanagement Corp., based in Dallas, established since 1985, provides a variety of telecommunications services to the wireline and wireless communications industries. NTC also provides unregistered cellular roaming services nationwide via its American Roaming Network. SmartPay is its prepaid product offering.
SmartPay Wireless is a trademark of National Telemanagement Corp.