TextNow became the first all-IP mobile operator in the country in August when it started selling a $19 plan and two Android(s goog) phones that relied solely on Sprint’s(s s) data networks to deliver voice and messaging services. But a month later it has improved upon its initial offer. On Thursday it began selling the Samsung Galaxy SIII embedded with an LTE chip, giving it access to much faster data speeds a much better mobile VoIP experience.
The refurbished Galaxy SIII costs $200, which may seem steep for a previous-generation device, but like other prepaid mobile virtual network operators, TextNow isn’t subsidizing the phone, which keeps its service costs low. By eschewing traditional mobile telephony and SMS it’s able to drive its plan prices down further. For $19 a month, the plan includes 500 MB of data, 750 outbound voice minutes, unlimited text messaging and unlimited inbound calling.
The biggest initial limitation of the service was that it was confined to Sprint’s 3G networks and WiMAX where available. While Sprint’s LTE footprint is still limited, it’s growing while its WiMAX expansion has stalled. As Sprint takes LTE nationwide TextNow customers will be able to access the greater network capacities, not only boosting the speeds of their mobile internet services but also the quality of their VoIP calls.
TextNow, which is owned by Waterloo, Ont.,-based Enlick, isn’t the only company trying to create an all IP-mobile carrier. FreedomPop launched its own VoIP and IP-SMS service this week, offering an even better value proposition. It’s giving 200 minutes, 500 messages and 500 MBs away for free each month and selling an unlimited voice and texting plan for $11. Like TextNow, FreedomPop is starting out on Sprint’s 3G and WiMAX networks, but it plans to launch its first LTE phone by the end of the year.