T-Mobile moves out of the middle with prepaid BlackBerry

T-Mobile (NYSE:DT) has come a long way in competing on prepaid since releasing a half-hearted unlimited, contractless service available to some customers on a trial basis. Last month it launched two new Even More unlimited service plans, and today it announced that it would offer a BlackBerry Curve 8520 as part of a prepaid plan that applies to anyone who’d like to sign up.

Prepaid phones used to be bare-bones calling and texting devices, but that – along with most things about the industry – has changed rapidly as the economy has worsened. Some prepaid providers, including MetroPCS, offer smartphones in their lineup, but this is the first advanced prepaid phone that T-Mobile – or any national carrier – has brought to market. T-Mobile’s service, Complete, will start at $50 per month after a free month and consumers can buy the $60 handset at Best Buy or Wal-Mart, which also sells Tracfone’s popular StraightTalk plan.

T-Mobile is launching the new plan and phone in time for the holidays and following a rough third-quarter, in which it struggled against bigger tier-one competitors and cost-cutting from a slew of prepaid providers. It lost 77,000 subscribers in the quarter due to higher churn amongst its contract customers. Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett has long held the opinion that T-Mobile has been stuck in the middle – not thriving in prepaid nor postpaid. T-Mobile is, of course, still focusing on the more lucrative contract market with its Android plans and 3G network build out, but moving towards the prepaid side with offers like this one is probably the fourth largest carrier’s best bet.

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