Sprint Nextel will start selling a mobile service at Wal-Martstores later this month to help it appeal to cost-conscious consumers who want no-frills cellphones.
Sprint said that when it launches the new offer May 15 it will have the cheapest per-minute phone-call prices in the pay-as-you-go phone market where customers pay for calls in advance and do not have to sign up for a long-term contract.
The latest offer includes seven cent per minute phone calls and a promise by the carrier to round down to the nearest minute rather than rounding up so that a customer who talks for 1:46 minutes would get charged for 1 minute, not 2.
According to Sprint, the next cheapest price in the category is 10 cents per minute, while some operators charge as much as 33 cents a minute for pay-as-you-go calls.
The offer will be exclusive to more than 700 WalMart stores, under a new brand Common Cents Mobile.
It is part of Sprint's effort to target very specific areas in the prepaid market, where it competes with rivals such as Tracfone, a unit of America Movil that uses the network of market leader Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone.
Other areas Sprint targets in prepaid include recently launched plans for people who like to send a lot of text messages but make barely any phone calls.
While Sprint has been losing customers for years in the valuable postpaid mobile market, where customers pay monthly bills and sign up for long-term contracts, it has seen strong growth in the market for prepaid.
As well as offering pay-as-you-go prepaid services Sprint also offers unlimited voice and data services for a monthly fee of $50 that is paid in advance. In this market its competitors include Leap Wireless and MetroPCS Communications.