Ready Wireless Announces Lifeline Reload Plans

Airfair Wireless lets subscribers reload at retail locations nationwide

Jim Bursch, Senior Vice President, Group Publisher & Editorial Director, CSP

HIAWATHA, Iowa -- Ready Wireless LLC has announces new partnerships with multiple wireless Lifeline providers enabling more than two million program beneficiaries to purchase additional airtime when monthly benefit minutes are depleted.

Dozens of U.S. companies offer mobile telephones and service at reduced or no cost to eligible beneficiaries through the federal Lifeline program of the Universal Service Fund (USF). Many beneficiaries of the Lifeline program were unable to use their mobile phones after monthly benefit minutes were used up. Once benefit minutes were gone, [image-nocss] users often had to wait for new benefit minutes to be automatically loaded in the following month.

With the introduction of the Ready Wireless reload program, users are now able to purchase additional minutes at thousands of participating retailers allowing for uninterrupted, continuous mobile telephone service, the company said.

In addition to this program, Ready Wireless has announced a standalone Lifeline reload brand called Airfair Wireless, set to roll out in May 2011 in more than 40,000 retail locations. The program is open to most wireless Lifeline providers.

Previously, providers of Lifeline mobile services often lacked a presence in the national or regional retail locations in which users are accustomed to buying prepaid airtime. "Reachout Wireless subscribers will have the ability to obtain optional additional airtime at thousands of national and regional retail locations via Airfair," said Steven Fenker, president of Nexus Communications.

This Ready Wireless program allows Lifeline beneficiaries to purchase Ready Mobile branded airtime at thousands of convenient retail locations. Purchases are then applied to beneficiaries' existing Lifeline mobile telephones allowing for uninterrupted service.

The new program works like any other prepaid wireless airtime product. The customer goes to the prepaid display, selects the card and pays for it at the register. Then the customer redeems it by calling an interactive voice response (IVR) number, and his or her device is topped up.

This program solves a couple of problems, Dennis Henderson, co-founder and CEO of Ready Wireless, told CSP Daily News. "First, there are many wireless providers out there that offer Lifeline services. We estimate over 100 that are currently certified, with many more that have applied to participate in the program. Secondly, these providers are not all certified in the same states today, and are adding different states all the time." To address that issue, Airfair offers one SKU across the entire footprint, "and as participating providers enter new states their customers are able to conveniently buy airtime in our retail partners' stores," he added.

"These customers are likely to be familiar with prepaid services, and they are used to buying airtime at the prepaid display," said Henderson. "But...the national and regional retailers don't want to manage the ever-changing 'map' of which carriers are certified where. So, Airfair is a simple way for wireless providers to give their customers the ability to buy airtime where they are used to buying it."

The program is resonating with carriers and retailers, said Henderson. "We have signed exclusive deals with a significant number carriers who, between them, are serving well over two million subscribers," he said.

For retailers, speed to market is a critical element of the program, Ready Wireless said.

"There has been significant downward pressure on retail airtime sales during the past year," said Fred Haumesser, co-founder and executive vice president of sales at Ready Wireless. "It is evident to both Ready Wireless and our retail partners that the growth of the mobile Lifeline product is playing a major role in the erosion of standalone prepaid product sales. This program will allow retailers to sell airtime to Lifeline beneficiaries and, therefore, quickly recapture a share of those lost revenues."

Hiawatha, Iowa-based Ready Wireless offers prepaid wireless services nationally. Its handsets and broadband devices are available in more than 30,000 retail locations nationwide. Airtime reloads are available in more than 80,000 locations nationwide. Retail partners include Dollar General, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Murphy USA, Cumberland Farms, Stripes, Fred's, Speedway, Pilot, Travel Centers of America, Meijer, Village Pantry, Huck's, Radio Shack and Duane Reade.

Nexus Communications' mission is to simplify the process of obtaining telephone service for consumers on a budget. Through its TSI Homephone program, the company offers activation and services at reduced rates to qualifying customers. Through its Reach Out Wireless program, Nexus provides free wireless activation and services at reduced rates to qualifying customers. TSI serves home phone subscribers living in more than 24 states across the country and Reach Out serves wireless customers in 12 states.

The Lifeline Assistance program provides discounts on basic monthly service for wireless service at the primary residence to income-eligible consumers. This program is supported by the federal Universal Service Fund (USF) and administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the help of the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC).

Jim Bursch, CSP Business Media/Winsight By Jim Bursch, Senior Vice President, Group Publisher & Editorial Director, CSP
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