Prepaid wireless provider offers 1000 minutes of international calling

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Low-priced unlimited wireless plans aren't that unusual these days, but Ultra Mobile, a new wireless provider, is sweetening its unlimited offer with 1000 minutes a month of international calling time.

Ultra Mobile, which uses T-Mobile's wireless network, announced a $49-a-month plan Tuesday that includes unlimited domestic voice, text and 4G data, as well as up to 1000 minutes of free direct-dial international calls and unlimited text to 194 countries.

The company works on a "bring-your-own-phone" model. You bring your unlocked phone to one of its more than 10,000 retail distributors, and you receive a SIM card that allows you to connect to the Ultra Mobile system — as long as your phone supports the 1900MHz frequency used by GSM operators, such as AT&T and T-Mobile, and HSPA+ for high-speed 4G data. Ultra Mobile provides HSPA+ 42Mbps service on T-Mobile's network. The company claims to have access to about 184 million points-of-presence nationwide.

Ultra Mobile says its unlimited-plus-international plan is targeted at immigrants, students from abroad and foreigners making extended visits to the United States.

The company also announced that it would offer mobile money services for paying bills, making purchases and sending money worldwide. According to Ultra Mobile, there are some 40 million people in the United States from abroad in need of such money services. That service will essentially tie a user's MasterCard account to Ultra Mobile's SIM card. It would make overseas money transfers very convenient. For example, money could be transferred to someone abroad through a simple SMS message.

In addition to its $49-monthly plan, Ultra Mobile announced a $29-a-month unlimited talk and text plan, as well as a $39-a-month unlimited talk, text and 2G data plan, which includes a credit for some 250 minutes of international calling.

Service providers like Ultra Mobile that lease the network capacity of others are called mobile virtual network operators. For the most part, they try to fill niches not addressed by the major carriers. For example, RadioShack became a mobile virtual network operator to offer low-priced service plans, such as $50 a month for unlimited voice and text and 1GB of data. Other mobile virtual network operators, such as Virgin Mobile,Cricket and Ting, have launched programs to attract customers interested in owning high-end smartphones without committing themselves to the typical two-year contract required by the major carriers.

This story, "Prepaid wireless provider offers 1000 minutes of international calling" was originally published by TechHive.

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