Verizon unveils first unlimited prepaid plan for $50

@CNNMoneyTech September 14, 2011: 12:47 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Verizon Wireless is launching its first prepaid unlimited phone plan on Thursday, with voice calls, text messaging and Web access for $50 a month.

Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) Wireless has offered prepaid plans since its inception in 2000, but its previous plans offered services only a la carte -- for example, voice calling for $1.99 a day, mobile Web for 99 cents a day and unlimited texting for $20 per month.

The prepaid market has long a stronghold of regional carriers and smaller wireless companies like MetroPCS (PCS), which offers unlimited prepaid plans that start at $40 a month. Sprint (S, Fortune 500) also offers prepaid plans through Virgin Mobile and Boost.

Verizon is hoping to capture a larger part of that customer base.

"We want to allow customers who have more of a prepaid lifestyle to join the network," said Brenda Raney, a company spokeswoman. "It's a 'cash and carry' relationship with Verizon Wireless."

Verizon's hottest smartphones -- including the iPhone and its Droid line -- won't be part of the offering. New customers can put the prepaid plan on one of four phones: LG Revere, LG Cosmos, Pantech Caper and Samsung Gusto. More will be added in the coming months, Raney said.

These so-called feature phones can access the Web, but they don't have the full capability of smartphones. Verizon is offering the phones at prices ranging from $40 to $100 for the handset.

Customers who already own phones that work with Verizon's other prepaid plans can now use them for the $50 unlimited plan, Raney said, "which opens it up to about 30 phones total."

The phones for the $50 unlimited prepaid plan will be available at Target (TGT, Fortune 500), Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500), RadioShack (RSH, Fortune 500) and Wal-mart (WMT, Fortune 500), in addition to Verizon's stores and website.

Raney declined to say how many Verizon customers are currently on prepaid plans.

Verizon moved two months ago to end unlimited data plans for phones carrying monthly contracts. Its cheapest monthly plan for smartphones, which offers 450 voice minutes and 2 gigabytes, currently starts at $70. To top of page

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