Boost Unlimited: Not Cannibalizing Sprint

Posted by: Olga Kharif on February 06, 2009

I just spoke with Matt Carter, president of Boost Mobile, about Boost Unlimited, a $50 a month prepaid monthly plan that launched in January. The plan includes unlimited calling, text messaging, wireless Web, and walkie talkie service. When it launched, some analysts feared the plan could encourage some postpaid customers of Sprint Nextel, whose network Boost uses, to switch to Boost for a cheaper service.

Well, that’s not happening. Carter tells me that, so far, “we haven’t seen the cannibalization coming from the Sprint side.” That — even though Boost Unlimites is sold through Sprint’s own stores as well as retailers like Wal-mart. And yet, Carter says plenty of postpaid subscribers are switching to Unlimited. Where are they coming from? T-Mobile USA.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise: Last year, Boost had changed its focus to address much broader demographics, which mirrors, in many ways, that of T-Mobile. Whereas Boost originally appealed to 14 to 24 year-olds, it now serves 18 to 34 year-old value consumers. And, especially in this economy, many of these users want to be able to avoid signing a long-term contract and to save a buck. While Carter won’t provide any numbers, he says Boost Unlimited has done well in its first two weeks. “We’ve been very pleased,” he says.

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Reader Comments

Mo

February 7, 2009 01:33 PM

Of course Boost isn't. Sprint markets post-paid to the middle-class. Nextel markets post-paid to construction, small government and security units.

Boost markets to the same crowd as Burger King and McDonalds. "I'm lovin' it."

Besides, $50 a month ($62 out the door in most blue states) is not exactly cheap. MetroPCS already offers $35 for unlimited use.

Travis

February 7, 2009 06:08 PM

Regardless of your contract status, Sprint simply does not allow you to shift your number from one of their postpaid CDMA plans to Boost's new Unlimited service. They will tell you on the phone that this type of migration isn't supported. It is also nearly impossible to port an existing Nextel account to Boost Unlimited even though the network is exactly the same.

This is effectively a clever form of corporate denial that is highly convenient for articles such as this one because Sprint can pretend that they are not cannibalizing their existing customer base and that all of the new activations are coming in from other carriers.

But here is what really happens: Sprint CDMA customers port their number to a prepaid provider that sells cheap devices (such as Tracphone). The customer then ports from the intermediate provider to Boost Unlimited. Four of my friends went through this process last week and I plan on doing the same thing as soon as my contract expires.

This forced "port laundering" allows Sprint to believe that they simply lost a customer to Tracphone and it allows Boost to believe that they have converted a former Tracphone user. The reality of the situation is obviously far less flattering as this is, for all intents and purposes, a direct move from Sprint to Boost.

Because of this policy, stories like this one are always going to be wildly inaccurate. Of course there is no officially-recognized cannibalization because Sprint's policy is to refuse to let you leave for Boost in an elegant way!

The cannibalization is real. Customers are leaving far more expensive Sprint postpaid plans behind and moving toward the $50 Boost Unlimited plan, even if they have to jump through hoops to make it happen. No amount of clever, policy-based, and delusional thinking is going to change this reality for the company.

Jones

February 8, 2009 03:18 PM

Travis,
It is interesting conjecture that you have put forth, but I submit that it's just as likely that the majority of users are defecting from T-Mobile and even AT&T and Verizon to some degree. Are some customers doing the "end around" that you described to move from SprintNextel post paid to Boost pre paid? Certainly, but I doubt it's as prevalent as what you seem to be suggesting and unfortunately, there is no data to prove or disprove your speculation. But again, nice theory.

Pete

February 8, 2009 05:43 PM

Apples and oranges. Some people my be leaving Sprint CDMA but they are losing a state of the art network and coverage ( Sprint plans include roaming or other CDMA networks ) . With Boost Unlimited they are paying less but getting less .

Travis

February 8, 2009 07:24 PM

Jones, I completely agree with you that Boost is pulling in subscribers from other providers. Their offer is extremely compelling, particularly in this economic environment, so of course people are leaving other companies as well. However, it is unfair to call my post "conjecture."

The headline of this article purports that Boost Unlimited is not cannibalizing Sprint customers. All that I was attempting to do in my post was to point out how Sprint has crafted a deceptive policy that ensures this is "true" even though it isn't.

If you call Boost and attempt to initiate a port request for your existing Sprint CDMA phone number they will tell you that they cannot port from these accounts. This is a fact, not a "theory." Any "cannibalization" figures from Sprint or Boost are completely without merit because of this.

Does that make sense? Again, this is not idle conjecture on my part. Boost does not let you port Sprint telephone numbers. This allows them to pretend that no one is leaving Sprint for Boost even though many people are.

Correct Info

February 9, 2009 09:11 AM

My company just did the Sprint to T-Mobile pre-paid to Boost Mobile $50.00 month number portability end-run.

We left the contractural shackles of Sprint and a $300.00 plus per month account we've had for over 8 years.

FYI, Boost Mobile uses Nextel's cellular network which is mature, ubiquitous and the same network that many first responders rely on, so

BTW, MetroPCS does offer a $35.00 per month plan, but it's not at all equivalent to Boost Mobile's $50.00 all inclusive, including taxes, plan.

Enjoy the savings!

Remus

February 9, 2009 11:11 AM

Boost is garbage. No 3way calling, no call waiting and text is so slow. Not to mention spotty reception almost everywhere. They might pull some customers but trust me they will go away after they run into the issues.

sjr

February 9, 2009 01:36 PM

Mo-
Wake up. Boost Unlmtd. is 50.00 out the door in ALL states...even the purple ones! Dahhhh

singlespeed

February 9, 2009 05:05 PM

Travis,

Great port out solution for Sprint/Nextel customers. "Creative Cannibalization" I like it! ...and your comments on Sprint's political porting jargon are spot on.

nate

February 10, 2009 12:49 PM

I switched immeditatedly to boost mobile from tmobile- who tried to ripp me off 250 bucks. (long story)

I rather pay 50.00/mo including taxes for unlimited talk, web etc then potentially get ripped off every month. I eventually found my self paying like 80.00/mo for cell phone use bec you are basically forced onto a text plan now.
Service on Boost is not the greatest but it is sufficient for my needs. I now get reception when i'm working at the courthouse in Miami. My main complaint is phone selection. I miss my Blackberry, but hey I'm saving at least 40.00/month now and I dont have to wait till 9pm to start talking!

Renee

February 12, 2009 11:41 AM

Hmm...no call waiting? It's working fine for me on my Boost Unlimited phone!

Steve

February 17, 2009 01:33 AM

I switched to Boost from Nextel. I didnt have any problems porting my number over. It probably would have been different if I had Sprint svc. The text messages are slow,but the same was true with the Nextel svc. In some cases, for some unknown reason(s), I have better cell and walkie talkie svc then I had with Nextel.

Matt

February 18, 2009 10:31 AM

The service so far is actually good. Call waiting works and I have no problem getting through. I left Sprint too because of the ridiculous fees and charges. Boost may end up cannibalizing Sprint after all. My only complaint is that they still have an issue wit call waiting. It seems now that when I call my voicemail, my call waiting goes off. All I have to do is choose 'No' This is a minor annoyance however.

Oliver

February 19, 2009 02:23 PM

I'm staying with Sprint because I need the speed of their data network and Boost/Nextel is not really a match with their speed. But I got an additional Boost phone for me as private line and to surf on an old Laptop (USB Data Connection). I think Sprint would be better off to lower the prices on their network as well and use Boost to kill the small carriers like MetroPCS and Cricket

don

February 19, 2009 04:08 PM

Sprint does not allow you to port your number over to boostmobile that is boost mobile is owned by sprint. Here is the solution port your number over to metropcs.com which is similar to boost mobile-$40 month unlimited calls,text,internet. That is great on its own. If you still want boostmobile transfer telephone/mobile cell phone number from metro pcs to boostmobile. In order to port number both account need to be active at the same time. metro will need your sprint nextel account number and password to port your number out of sprint.metropcs number is 1.888.863.8768

Bree

February 25, 2009 02:49 AM

So are we trusting marketing and company heads again? Of course he is going to say that those plans are hurting Sprint, because he is PAID to say these things.

James

February 26, 2009 09:57 AM

I did the switch from Sprint to Boost, I dont regret the fact that I left Sprint but I do regret going with Boost. It's definitly a get what you pay for situation, I've had them for a week and plan on getting another service provider ASAP, now my only concern is can I switch my Boost number to the new carrier?

Jason3599

March 4, 2009 02:48 PM

To Travis--excellent tips and points. I appreciate that you obviously understand phone company's business models. I've worked both in cell phone and cable TV industries, and its amazing how these companies will justify subscribers (subs) just to make themselves look good to Wall Street. Its saavy for one to understand how these companies think and how we as customer insist on workarounds to get around roadblocks in the system.

raff

March 27, 2009 01:23 AM

I jumped ship today. I live in an area that my Verizon service is less than great. I picked up a boost phone and I have better reception and I am paying half the fee. The $50.00 flat fee is the way of the future. It will take some time before the big one's get the clue. It is like any other business, they will say it is not effecting them, then boom all of them have it. When boost begins generating $500,000,000.00 a year from this plan, and trust me by this time next year that will be so. The phones will be up to par with anything Verizon has. So watch, and maybe invest, this is the way it is going to go. The only diff between pre-pay and post at this point you can never get three months behind and not pay an early term fee.

Lo

April 15, 2009 08:48 PM

Travis, when you ported your number from Sprint to Tracfone to Boost, how long did you or your friends have to wait between each port?

annagrounds@msn.com

May 6, 2009 11:33 AM

Boost is a joke. There is no coverage area. Talking with friends in So Cal they can make calls during the day. However at night it is a different story. There is no service. Looks like the network is saturated with everyone trying to make a call on this less than desirable network. I guess you get what you paid for. Hopefully people will wise up. Paying 50.00 for inferior service is not a deal!

WeimMom

May 13, 2009 08:05 AM

I am in the Kansas City area and have Boost. I've not had significant problems, however they are getting so large, so fast as a result of the $50 unlimited plan, we at times have problems with dropped calls and getting messages delivered in a timely manner. They state they are working on this issue, and have added call waiting to their plan.

Hopefully, they will have these issues corrected soon as I do not want to change providers, but need a phone.

Trevor

July 26, 2009 08:55 AM

I have left T-Mobile to go to Boost because of the cost savings. So far I have not had any issues whatsoever. I did not port my old number though, but opted for a new number. The Boost phone was up and running in less than 2 minutes after doing everything online. So far no complaints. For 50 bucks for everything you can't go wrong, I was paying over 100 for the same thing before with T-Mobile.

Manda

September 16, 2009 10:57 AM

I have Boost Unlimited and have had NOTHING but issues with them. I got them 2 months ago, July 14th to be exact and in the 2 month time frame that I have had them, I kid you not, I have called LITERALLY 3 to 4 times every week. I have had nothing but problems with sending a receiving texts, I can't even send and I can't open texts. For a while, when anyone would try to call me it would go straight into voicemail and I would never receive a call notification...NOW after only TWO months..my charger is having extreme difficulties even charging the phone. Not to mention I called in to discuss my concerns with a supervisor and got some guy named Jason..who's answer to every question I had was, "I don't know the answer to that question," or "That is something that is out of my control" I swear he HAD no information to provide to me. I was a little confused as to why he was even a supervisor. When I told him that I didn't feel he was able to answer my questions, because he kept saying, "I don't know" he responded with, "I'm sorry you feel that way" (super sarcastic). I suggest anyone considering Boost...to NOT go with them. I have one of the newest phones and it's terrible. I had a better experience with Metro PCS.

Nathan

October 8, 2009 05:44 AM

Wow, it really is rare to see so many fresh posts on a 2006 article. I was under contract in 06 but I am foot loose and fancy free now. I am paying 75 a month to Sprint and only getting 300 texts for my trouble on my current unlimited incoming plan. I think I will switch over to boost.

Antonio

October 30, 2009 11:10 AM

To answer any questions about migrating your number to Sprint to Boost Mobile - generally they tell you no.....but the answer is YES but the network will have to be changed. It is a little more work but there is a company that does it regulary. The company is called US-Mobile1 out of Washington/Baltimore and their number is 1-866-US-Mobile1 or 202-636-8500.

Aisa

November 5, 2009 04:46 AM

My boyfriend has boost and he thinks I am an idiot because I pay At&t over $100 for 1350 mins, 400 texts and enough internet to check my e-mail once a month. Want to spend less but confused though. When my bf goes to Vegas, Louisiana he acts like he can't call me because he has to put money on the phone. Is he lying? Is it nationwide? If I visit NJ will my calls still be covered by the plan?

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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