said by IowaCowboy:
Since some MVNOs use the Verizon/AT&T pipeline, the big duopoly could close the valve on MVNOs at any time without notice. Yes there is sprint/t-mobile but AT&T/Verizon are the only ones with the best coverage. The only real competition is if you are lucky enough to have US Cellular or C-Spire in your area (and the first of the two refuses to carry the iPhone).
If you had said this 2 years ago I would have believed you. MVNOs had the worst phones, limited (or more frequently no) data, and only offered unlimited voice/talk to compete. Worse yet, activating CDMA phones on different CDMA MVNOs is *still* a crapshoot. This means that even though you didn't have a contract, you'd be "invested" in whatever network you bought your branded phone from. The only advantage to going with an MVNO a couple years ago was if you had shitty credit.
Jump to 2012, and most MVNOs support and even sell top-tier phones (like the iPhone). MVNO adoption is on the upswing and MVNO pricing is far more competitive. Some MVNOs offer the same roaming as postpaid carriers (Tracfone, Solavei), while others provide cheaper data. GSM MVNOs have expanded immensely, meaning if you buy an unlocked phone with the right bands (say, a Galaxy Nexus) you can use high speed data on either ATT or T-Mobile's network without being "invested" in a particular ecosystem. No activation. No carrier-branding hassles.
And it's not just some oversight by the big carriers. They benefit by having you on an MVNO as well. A significant portion of a carrier's costs goes into customer support. If you call Verizon or ATT to have them correct your bill each month, or to negotiate lower prices, or for questions about your phone, etc. etc. that costs them. Prepaid offerings let them cut costs on customer support (they don't have to pay for any support for MVNO customers), while generating guaranteed profit on wholesale.
It's a win-win for those of us who don't call carrier support anyways.
I have Verizon postpaid and I like getting a bill every month instead of having a call drop because I ran out of minutes (and you have to run to the gas station or cell phone store to buy more minutes).
Almost every MVNO offers unlimited minutes as the default. Straight-Talk, Simple Mobile, etc. etc.
In fact, the only plans I see that restrict minutes are T-Mobile's 5GB, 100min plan for $30, and Virgin Mobile.
You also get more privileges with postpaid. When I had prepaid years ago (back in my high school years), I had Verizon Prepaid (back when it was called FreeUp) and you did not have access to anything more than talk, text, and 411 (no roadside assistance, handset insurance, etc) and when your minutes ran out, your call dropped. Also with prepaid, roaming was more costly as you had to pay more if the tower was not owned by Verizon (extended network).
So you're basing your experience with prepaid from how many years ago?
The world changes man, and the market has changed a LOT in the past couple years alone. As others have mentioned though - thanks for subsidizing prepaid services. The network's the same. The sales and support model is typically the only change.
Have a read:
"What makes us omniscient? Have we a record of omniscience? ...If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning."
-United States Secretary of Defense (1961-1968) Robert S. McNamara