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Prexar Acquires Amp'd Wireless Customers

Prexar Acquires Amp'd Wireless Customers
By LongDistanceUS.com on Tuesday, July 31 2007

As a service shut-off deadline looms, Amp’d Mobile Inc. customers now have an out: Prexar Mobile, a small mobile virtual network operator managed by a nationwide CLEC, signed a deal to acquire Amp’d Mobile’s customers. Prexar is hoping the boost to its business will help it expand nationwide.

According to Prexar, it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the customers of Amp’d Mobile, and is working with Amp’d management to “provide a safe haven” for the MVNO’s customers. Terms of the deal, including the purchase price, were not disclosed.

Bill Fogg, CEO of USA Telephone, the company behind the Prexar brand, said Amp’d Mobile customers will have to act fast: They have until tomorrow evening to transfer their service without interruption. Customers will likely still be able to transfer service for a short time after Amp’d Mobile shuts off its service, he added, but the time frame is still unclear. Amp’d Mobile customers received a text message alerting them of the option last night, he said, and will receive four more. Fogg added that Prexar’s customer service centers have already been “pounded” with customers calling and signing up.

“If they want to retain usage of those handsets that can move with them, as well as voice and text, they are running out of time,” Fogg said. “I can’t stop that. We’re working to mitigate that, but it’s not easy for us to do that. If they want to port out, we need them to come in now.”

Fogg said Prexar’s goal is to help Amp’d Mobile customers retain basic communication services at first—voice and text only—and said Prexar is working on a longer-term plan to add a content delivery system. However, Prexar so far does not own Amp’d Mobile’s vast content library, which remains on the bankruptcy auction block.

The Prexar brand was created last summer as part of USA Telephone’s quadruple-play offering, and has slowly grown to about 15,000 wireless customers, Fogg said. Acquiring Amp’d Mobile’s customers could boost Prexar’s plans for a nationwide brand, which was “always in the plans” for Prexar, Fogg said.

Prexar’s service does not require a contract, Fogg said. Customers who sign up for new plans have to put the cost of the base plan on a credit card, and then are billed later for usage.

Prexar offers four calling plans ranging in price from $40 per month for 450 anytime minutes to $180 per month for 3,000 minutes. All of its plans include 3,000 minutes of off-peak calling and unlimited domestic long distance; the company also offers text messaging bundles, from $3 per month for 100 messages to $60 per month for 5,000 SMS. Mobile-to-mobile calling among Prexar customers costs an additional $7 per month for 1,000 minutes. Data services are not currently an option.

That two-step billing process could help Prexar avoid some of the non-payment problems that put Amp’d Mobile in a pickle.

“We went through a lot of that thought process and we really wrestled with it and what was the best thing to do,” Fogg said. However, he noted that Prexar “is a little different because we are billing in advance for the base plan and for usage in arrears.”

“We also believe these people who are coming to us have a real desire to stay connected and are putting their best foot forward, and we’re going to work with them on that,” Fogg said.

While most handsets from Amp’d Mobile can continue to be used with Prexar, customers who bought the Motorola Inc. E816, or Hollywood, will need to get a new phone. Prexar offers three handsets, with prices varying depending on whether a customer signs up without a contract or opt for a one- or two-year deal. Verizon Wireless has protested in court filings that Amp’d Mobile’s E816 has caused network issues due to faulty software, and would do the same for any other CDMA wireless provider. Fogg said that Prexar has “access points with a number of carriers,” but declined to name them.

According to Prexar's Web site, the company "provides service on the same network as Amp'd."

“The E816s have to be replaced, that’s just the way it is,” Fogg said. “We have supplies of handsets that we can quickly get out to customers who sign up with us. There’s a variety of issues with that phone, and it’s just not going to work moving over with that phone.”

He said that customers are asked during the sign-up process which handset they have, and those with the E816 are asked to call customer service. He urged Amp’d Mobile customers who want to transition their service to locate their ESN number on their device prior to calling, to expedite the transfer of service.

After burning through close to $400 million, Amp’d Mobile filed for bankruptcy in June. The company’s remaining assets are set to be auctioned this week.


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