This isn't another one of those prepaid plans. Starting as early as next week, Walmart will be offering a cell phone plan like no other. Though its being marketed to families, it may be a decent option for the fledgling startup on a shoestring budget.

Calling it a postpaid plan, Walart is branding its own cell phone service (though it is really through T-Mobile) at bargain rates for unlimited minutes and texting. The first phone is $45 a month. Each additional line is $25.

Here's the good, the bad and the ugly on this one:


- It's Walmart, so of course it is cheaper than dirt. $45 a month for unlimited minutes and texting? That's about $15 a month cheaper than even T-Mobile's own bargain basement plans. A similar deal at Verizon would be $70 and $90 at AT&T.

- No contract and the phones are even still cheap. For the self-employed or recently launched small business, the fewer committments up front the better. Here's a way to go month to month with no strings attached. There are no early termination fees and you can still get a smartphone for $250 (the Motorola Cliq). You can go as low as $35 on a Nokia.

- No credit checks.

- As mentioned, its a postpaid plan; meaning you pay at the end of the month and not the beginning.

The Bad

- There are only five phones to choose from and the one smartphone is kind of lame. This is definitely not the best solution for techies.

- It's T-Mobile's USA network. Check the coverage map before you commit.

The Ugly

- Forget about rolling back the prices on this one. The price of the data plan is a stinker. Walmart will be charging $40 a month for one gigabyte. By comparison, AT&T charges $25 a month for two. Given that four out of five phones offered on the plan are NOT smartphones, its pretty clear that this is really meant for customers who still almost exclusively use their phone as, er uh, a phone. I will say this, you can at least roll over unused data from month to month.

It's interesting to see Walmart moving into this space. This can only be the beginning; the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. Let's face it; anything that the Goliath Walmart decides to do has the potential to be a game changer. A cell phone plan that requires no credit check, no two year contract to get the cut rate price on the phone and a cheaper monthly nut for service has got to put some pressure on the real carriers.

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