Enter Telcel América: A Straight Talk for Mexican nationals

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Telcel may not be a household name in the U.S., but it is among the millions of Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans here that grew up, lived or have done business in Mexico. Now América Móvil has quietly brought the Telcel brand to the U.S., launching it as one of the many mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) run managed by Móvil’s TracFone Wireless business.

Telcel América, however, will be very different from Telcel Mexico. In fact Telcel’s U.S. incarnation will look an awful like Straight Talk Wireless, another MVNO run by TracFone. For $45 a month a customer gets unlimited voice, SMS and supposedly unlimited data, though I suspect as with Straight Talk, Telcel will probably cut you off if you regularly go over 2 GB a month.

But for $60 month, Telcel will tack on unlimited calling to set international destinations, including both landlines and wireless numbers in Mexico. BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk explains why that’s a big deal:

In Mexico, the 99 million mobile customers dwarfs the shrinking 15 million landlines in that market and those mobile phone customers do not pay for inbound calls. Telcel America will be differentiated by offering Unlimited calling to both mobile and landline. Sprint’s Boost Unlimited and MetroPCS charge $55/month for their “Mexico Unlimited” rate plans which [are] unlimited only to landline numbers but not the more prevalent mobile numbers.  MetroPCS and Leap charge $0.30/minute extra for calls to Mexican cellular lines while Boost Unlimited’s rates vary from $0.20 – $0.28 per minute.

Typically a U.S. carrier has to pay its mobile counterpart in Mexico to connect those international calls, but in this case América Móvil is that counterpart. It has a 70 percent market share in the Mexican mobile market, so the vast majority of these calls would be considered “in network”.

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