T-Mobile goes off-brand with new prepaid service GoSmart

GoSmart T-Mobile prepaid SIM kit

T-Mobile USA has launched a new prepaid service for the highly budget-minded, and in the process it’s taken a page from Sprint’s book. Instead of making the new plans part of its regular magenta-tinged T-Mobile portfolio, the carrier has created a whole new brand: GoSmart Mobile.

GoSmart plans start at $30 a month, including unlimited talk and text. For $5 more a month, you can get unlimited Web access, but only on T-Mobile’s 2G GPRS and EDGE networks. For $45 a month, you can upgrade to the 3G HSPA network and get 5 GB of data, after which you’ll be throttled down to 2G speeds. It’s important to note T-Mo is specifically saying 3G here even though its marketing its HSPA+ network as 4G. The implication is that even GoSmart users on the $45 plan won’t get access to the full bandwidth available over its data networks.

GoSmart is offering only two devices without subsidies, a $50 Alcatel feature phone and a $100 ZTE Android 2.3 device, which is a pretty good bargain for a smartphone. GoSmart’s main go-to-market package appears to be a SIM kit that allows a customer to activate any GSM device they bring to the network. That strategy seems to replicate the SIM services that have proven so successful for Tracfone and other mobile virtual network operators.

But why is T-Mobile creating an entirely new brand for prepaid when it already sells a lot of contract-free plans under the official T-Mobile? The carrier is probably trying to create two distinct classes of prepaid of service so it can tailor its marketing for each. T-Mobile’s branded prepaid emphasizes T-Mobile HSPA+ data network, bigger and faster data plans and higher-end devices.

Meanwhile, GoSmart is clearly targeted at the more voice-centric budget user. Sprint follows the same approach, though its segmented its prepaid services into numerous brands, including Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and Assurance Wireless.

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