article

Phone Plus Prepaid: retail news

Posted: 09/2002

retail news

Compiled and reported by Khali
Henderson and Tara Seals

ePHONE Launches Online Sales of
New e-Trans-Port

ePHONE
Telecom Inc.’s latest product, e-Trans-Port, is available for purchase at
www.emin.tv. The unit, which plugs into the phone jack of a home or office
telephone, allows savings on long-distance prepaid calling by routing toll calls
on a voice over IP (VoIP) network.

The unit plugs into a one- or
two-line telephone’s jack, and the phone line then plugs into e-Trans-Port. The
unit routes originating analog calls to ePHONE, where they are digitized and
sent through the company’s private VoIP network. eTransPort is compact and
portable and requires no external power or batteries. Customers enter PIN
information once and then can dial without entering access codes or additional
numbers.

e-Trans-Port units are priced at
$34.95 and come preloaded with 75 continental U.S. calling minutes. The company
says it saves up to 80 percent on domestic and international long-distance calls
by using VoIP. Customers can sign up for automatic replenishment on a monthly
basis for the number of minutes they choose. Any unused minutes will roll over
to the next month, as long as the customer is in replenishment program.
Customers can cancel at any time and the remaining airtime can be used for the
following 90 days.

To accommodate an increase in
customer demand for this and other products, the company has installed a PoP in
Miami to handle retail and wholesale traffic, while serving as an anchor site to
reach South America. The site will provide redundancy for disaster recovery at
the company’s other sites in Herndon, Va., Los Angeles and New York City.

Bank of America Rolls Out Visa
CashPay Card

Bank
of America has enhanced its existing prepaid CashPay payroll card by joining
with Visa. CashPay cards, first issued in 1998, allow employers to deposit an
employee’s pay directly onto a prepaid card issued in the employee’s name. By
adding the Visa brand to CashPay, the cardholders can use their cards everywhere
Visa is accepted, at more than 24 million locations worldwide.

The company also has added
enhancements to the card’s standard features, which include the ability to
transfer funds to a checking or savings account and the ability to pay bills.
CashPay cardholders can track their expenses via the Internet or by using
detailed monthly statements.

"CashPay offers our corporate
clients and their employees a valuable business tool for managing and accessing
their payroll," says Joseph Lyons, stored-value card senior manager for
Bank of America. "This latest enhancement gives employees who don’t have a
credit or debit product all the same conveniences, security and money managing
tools that our other customers have long enjoyed."

The card offers operational savings
for employers and helps employees without personal checking or savings accounts.
American Banker online reports 12 million to 15 million households, or 20
percent of the U.S. population, do not have a banking relationship. This group
spends approximately $8 billion a year in check cashing and other financial
service fees.

Atlas Telecom Sold World Cup
Updates via SMS Prepaid Cards

Atlas
Telecom Mobile an SMS content aggregator and a SMS carrier, created an SMS
information and news alert service that allowed World Cup Soccer fans to keep
abreast of tournament events in real-time through their mobile phones.

The SMS prepaid card allowed users
to stay on top of game results, hear the latest news about players and to be
informed instantly of goals scored. The cards, which sold for $15, entitled
cardholders to receive 30 messages. The cards were activated through an
interactive telephone service and were valid for the duration of the event, May
31 to June 30.

The cards were sold in the Antilles,
Canada, Spain and the United States through sports shops, kiosks, supermarkets
and online via the Mobiwin, Tel3, Atlas Telecom Mobile Web sites.

A spokesperson for Atlas declined to
reveal the number of cards sold but said the program was successful, especially
in Martinique, where the telecom carrier partnered with McDonald’s fast-food
outlets to distribute the cards. McDonald’s customers were able to get service
by buying a "Special World Cup Menu" (two cheeseburgers, medium fries,
medium drink and a SMS card with 12 messages) or pay #5 for one card without a
meal.

Western Union Adds Prepay Center
to SwiftPay Service

Western
Union Financial Services has augmented its 18-month-old SwiftPay prepaid
wireless and local replenishment service with distribution of prepaid wireless
handsets and local service initiation. The Western Union Prepay Center was
rolled out to 500 of the company’s 40,000 agents beginning in August with plans
to double that number by the end of the year.

Keith Dively, senior vice president
and general manager of SwiftPay, says customer, agent and service provider
demand drove the decision to become a distribution channel for prepaid wireless
and local products as well as recharge services.

"The predominant payment method
for prepaid service is cash," Diveley says. "Since our main business
is cash and moving cash, it’s a natural for our agents and our business."

Unlike other retail outlets for
prepaid services, Western Union agents will have a specially designed
point-of-sale display that incorporates customer service. A phone handset
connected to the display allows users to speak to a live call center
representative about the service they want to purchase. In the case of wireless,
they can ask questions about it and then, after hanging up the phone, purchase
the wireless package from the agent. In the case of local service, the
order-entry data is taken by the CSR and then the payment for the service is
made to the Western Union agent on site.

"Our data show us that
consumers will be intrigued by talking to the customer service rep," says
Dively, He adds it also allows agents to offer a higher level of service to
their customers.

The service initially will be
available at select outlets in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Philadelphia and New York
City. It is an optional offer for Western Union agents, but Diveley says it has
been well received and the company expects most of its agents will incorporate
the offer over time.

Agents receive a portion of the
commission Western Union has negotiated for the company with prepaid service
providers. Diveley expects the service to encourage repeat visits from customers
who initiate service through Western Union agents. Western Union makes the
larger portion of its money on the renewals, he says.


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