* To charge 7 cents/minute; rounds minutes down, not up
* To launch May 15
* Exclusive to more than 700 WalMart stores
NEW YORK, May 13 (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel (S.N) will start selling a mobile service at Wal-Mart (WMT.N) stores later this month to help it appeal to cost-conscious consumers who want no-frills cellphones.
Sprint said that when it launches the new offer May 15 it will have the cheapest per-minute phone-call prices in the pay-as-you-go phone market where customers pay for calls in advance and do not have to sign up for a long-term contract.
The latest offer includes 7 cent per minute phone calls and a promise by the carrier to round down to the nearest minute rather than rounding up so that a customer who talks for 1:46 minutes would get charged for 1 minute, not 2.
According to Sprint, the next cheapest price in the category is 10 cents per minute, while some operators charge as much as 33 cents a minute for pay-as-you-go calls.
The offer will be exclusive to more than 700 WalMart stores, under a new brand Common Cents Mobile.
It is part of Sprint’s effort to target very specific areas in the prepaid market, where it competes with rivals such as Tracfone, a unit of America Movil (AMXL.MX) that uses the network of market leader Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications (VZ.N) and Vodafone (VOD.L).
Other areas Sprint targets in prepaid include recently launched plans for people who like to send a lot of text messages but make barely any phone calls [ID:nN05190025].
While Sprint has been losing customers for years in the valuable postpaid mobile market, where customers pay monthly bills and sign up for long-term contracts, it has seen strong growth in the market for prepaid.
As well as offering pay-as-you-go prepaid services Sprint also offers unlimited voice and data services for a monthly fee of $50 that is paid in advance. In this market its competitors include Leap Wireless LEAP.O and MetroPCS Communications PCS.N. (Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Gary Hill)