Target (NYSE:TGT) will take on Wal-Mart’s Straight Talk Wireless with a prepaid wireless service of its own that launches Sunday. The service, called Brightspot, starts at $35 per month for unlimited talk and text, with no data service for taking a smartphone online.
Brightspot targets consumers who primarily use a cell phone for talking or text messaging, as the only option for smartphone users costs $50. The higher price Brightspot data plan gives customers unlimited talk and text with 1 GB of “high-speed” data (over T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network). It compares unfavorably to Wal-Mart’s Straight Talk prepaid wireless, which offers unlimited talk and text along with 2.5 GB of data split between T-Mobile’s HSPA+ and AT&T’s 4G LTE. Walmart's Straight Talk wireless also allows users to bring their own phone, requiring a $15 SIM card purchase.
Target will offer a $25 gift card for every six months that customers use the Brightspot service, which equates to about $4.17 a month. Members of Target’s premium REDcard customer rewards program will also receive a 5 percent discount off Brightspot.
To join Brightspot, Target customers can purchase from several basic phones offered by Target’s mobile department, or bring their own phone, as long as it is compatible with the T-Mobile network’s broadcast frequencies.
The news of Brightspot follows on the heels of FreedomPop's announcement that the "free under 500MB" ISP would offer a free mobile plan, with up to 200 minutes of talk time, 500 text messages and 500 MB of data per month with the purchase of a $99 HTC EVO Design 4G.
T-Mobile began a wave of contract-free carrier offerings with its “Uncarrier” plans, which support most cell phones on the market, and a $50 unlimited everything plan. T-Mobile limits high-speed data consumption after 500MB, and another $10 increases the limit to 2 GB, while truly unlimited data without throttling will cost $70 a month.
Virgin Mobile costs $35 for 300 minutes of talk with unlimited messaging and data. Virgin Mobile throttles users down to 256Kbps (comparable to EDGE data speeds) after 2.5 GB of data usage.
Page Plus Cellular uses the Verizon Wireless network, but only allows for 3G data speeds. Plans range from $12 for 250 minutes and 250 text messages, with 10 MB of data, up to $69.95 for unlimited talk and text with 5 GB of data.
Boost Mobile offers an unlimited talk and text plan that starts at $50 a month for up to 2.5GB of high-speed data, with Internet service throttled down after reaching the limit. Every six months, Boost lowers phone users’ bill $5, and after 18 months the total for “unlimited” plans comes down to $35.