Until the 1990s, cell phones worked on a postpaid basis in the US. That means that only contract-based cell phones were in existence and these were only available to those with good credit. In 1994, Houston Cellular Telephone Company filed a patent for prepay mobile phones. They initially used the service for walk-in customers. The prepaid cells were more expensive – double the cost of postpaid – and customers still had to pay upfront for their expected usage.
Though this company had been projected to be the first company to go fully pre-paid, it did not transpire. Once AT&T’s monopoly over the cell phone market was broken up however, it became more feasible. Voice Systems Technology, Inc in the US were the first to really implement prepay wireless. The main product was sold under Houston Cellular’s CallTrac, Boatphone BVI’s Prepay, and Cable & Wireless Prepay, and took off in Europe in 1995.
Today, every European country supports pre-paid cell phones, Ireland’s pay-as-you-go is the network’s main mode of operation. It is the cheapest option for most people, and offers the most convenience and affordability. In the US, account phones actually offer better value, pay as you go systems tend to be more restrictive and expensive.
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