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Mobile Virtual Networks Are Booming Again

timothy posted about a year ago | from the save-it-for-the-mortgage-payment dept.

AT&T 79

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Sue Marek reports at Fierce Wireless that the mobile virtual network operator business is booming again, with new MVNOs launching nearly every week and operators like Sprint and T-Mobile hungry for MVNO partners because MVNOs offer a good economic return and can help them to grow their market share and reach into markets where they might not have visibility. 'It's a good strategic play for us,' says Matt Carter, president of Sprint wholesale and emerging solutions. 'It's another army to help us garner more subscribers on the network.' But unlike the MVNO craze of the 2005-2006 era--highlighted by high-profile failures like ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile, Amp'd Mobile and Helio, today's high-profile MVNOs like FreedomPop, Republic Wireless, Solavei and Ting offer innovative service plans, marketing techniques and, in some cases, devices that they hope will draw consumers to their offerings. Today's MVNOs can be successful with a seemingly tiny number of customers. For example, Tucows' MVNO Ting, which sells mobile usage by minutes, text messages and megabytes, announced they currently have around 25,000 total customers, and that the business is on track to cross the break-even threshold in the fourth quarter of this year. Virtual carriers now also get the latest phones like the Moto X at launch and don't have to wait for new Android handsets to trickle down."

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79 comments

Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44705775)

Hopefully VoLTE will make this even more popular. I want to just buy a sim and use whatever device I like. Maybe I want a smartphone without data service, maybe I want to bring a device the carrier has never heard of, maybe I want to see some damn competition in our mobile market. Why the FCC does not mandate interoperability like we do with landlines I will never understand.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#44705825)

Why the FCC does not mandate interoperability like we do with landlines I will never understand.

Money talks and bullshit walks. And who has the money?

That said, Ting FTW!

I have been a Ting customer for about 6 months now and it is good. Coverage is a little lacking in some areas that I go, but that is sprints fault, hopefully they will build out more. I just brought my girlfriend over from verizon onto my account. She was grandfathered unlimited until she got a new phone/contract and using 3gb data a month at about $80. Before her charging port broke, I got her weaned down to ~500MB data by using Wifi at home and work and scheduling certain things to only do when wifi is available.

Now, on ting, both of us together pay about $50. Less if it is a light usage month. Plus you can bring over sprint devices, and they do not care if you flash over stuff. I fixed my GFs old DINC2 which is not a bad phone, and I am trying to flash it over now.

At first Ting's billing was a bit confusing, as they pre-billed for expected usage, then at the end of the month refunded or billed additionally depending on usage and billed for taxes/fees. Now it is an entirely post-pay system. You pay at the end of the month for what you used.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44705907)

I would rather not hassle with CDMA at all. Give me a sim and let that be it.

Ting seems like a good idea, but I am not limiting myself to just sprint devices.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about a year ago | (#44706009)

The LTE/CDMA phones used by Verizon,Sprint and MVNOs using their networks utilize SIMs for authentication.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706061)

Yes, but you can't make a voice call so far without CDMA. The SIM is only used for LTE. This is why you still can't bring a random LTE phone over.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (2)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#44706273)

A random LTE device is unlikely to work with Sprint anyways, they're the only people doing LTE on band 25 (1900g) according to a quick google check. Their 800MHz band 26 deployment will give them much better coverage but it's not going to help any with phone selection unless the band 20 processors for Europe are built to include band 26 as well.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about a year ago | (#44706383)

The SIM authenticates the CDMA side of things too. Switching LTE phones on Verizon now just requires switching SIM cards between phones, no more calling your changing the ESN/MEID on their website. With the explosion of numerous LTE bands on top of the existing legacy voice bands, its going to be difficult to make a true "world phone" these days. Even unlocked GSM/LTE handsets are coming in multiple SKUs to accommodate the various LTE bands.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706421)

But it means you need a phone that supports CDMA, which if you are importing is pretty rare.

Hopefully someone will rise to that challenge. Otherwise competition will again be non-existent.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Timothy Hartman (2905293) | about a year ago | (#44706721)

Verizon doesn't allow 4G LTE on MVNOs so it doesn't really matter for the purpose of this discussion.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44710189)

Could you (or anyone) provide a citation for this? I'm well aware CDMA has had the ability to use a SIM for years [wikipedia.org] , but the information I had found was this capability had only been rolled out in Japan (possibly other parts of Asia too). Meanwhile the US CDMA carriers were only allowing the usage of the ESN on the phone, since this tied you directly to their network.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706275)

I'm a happy Ting customer for a couple months now, having come from TMo.

While I generally agree with your preference for GSM devices, there's an advantage in that everyone else does too, so Sprint CDMA phones are available used for much less than comparable GSM phones. Sure, the selection's somewhat more limited but there are a number of high-end, CM-supported Sprint phones available for very little money.

I'll say too that Ting support is awesome and they seem happy to accomodate phone geeks, swapping CDMA devices in and out of service on the account all the time. Can be done online or by phone, where you get a real human, in the US, on the line immediately. Yes, it's still an extra hoop vs. swapping a SIM, but still much easier than doing the same thing at, say, Verizon.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706347)

Somewhat limited?
Find any Nexus device or GPE device, that is an actual one not the Nexus in Name only SPRINT galaxy nexus that has not had updates in ages.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Drew617 (3034513) | about a year ago | (#44706469)

Cyanogenmod is available for the GNex, isn't it? The Galaxy devices are all represented, no? So, yeah, somewhat limited, but it's not as though a bunch of good options don't exist.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706495)

Cyanogenmod is not what I asked for.

While I like it I prefer Nexus devices for my production device. Cyanogenmod is great and I love it on my other devices that I don't depend on for work.

I honestly do not consider the Galaxy line as good options really. I am pretty specific I know. They are better than anything bootloader locked though.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Drew617 (3034513) | about a year ago | (#44706709)

That's a valid requirement but, like you said, also pretty specific.

A discussion about BYOD Sprint devices on the Ting network limits us to users at a specific intersection of cheapitude and geekery: you've got to already know about the unadvertised (I think) program, and at the very least not mind reprogramming some carrier settings to make your Sprint phone work. From there, I don't think it's a stretch to assume that a lot of these users will be comfortable flashing and working on a stable CM release.

Obviously, dealing with any of that stuff is going to be unattractive to some people. For those who don't mind, though, I still think there are good choices. Maybe won't meet everyone's exact requirements (yours, BlackBerry people, and the iPhone as has been mentioned) but I think the situation is considerably better than what we've traditionally seen from MVNOs.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706823)

I don't mind it, just not something I want to do to my prod device.

Likely when my current contract ends I will end up on T-mobile.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Drew617 (3034513) | about a year ago | (#44706999)

Understandable.

I agree completely with the preference for GSM over CDMA, which generally sucks for users. The bonus is that CDMA devices are way cheap on the used market.

With all that said, if someone offered a Ting-like service on a GSM network, I'd buy it. TMO's prepaid plans seem fair, and their new postpaid model seems like a step in the right direction too, but Ting costs me $40/mo for two devices right now and as far as I can see, no other carrier can touch that.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

MoxFulder (159829) | about a year ago | (#44707353)

While I generally agree with your preference for GSM devices, there's an advantage in that everyone else does too, so Sprint CDMA phones are available used for much less than comparable GSM phones. Sure, the selection's somewhat more limited but there are a number of high-end, CM-supported Sprint phones available for very little money.

Agreed. I got a slightly-used Samsung Epic 4G from Cowboom for $60 about in January 2012. It had been one of Sprint's two flagship models when it launched, less than a year and a half before. It runs the latest CM10.1 and the WiMax 4G coverage is great in Portland, and upgrading in this way allowed me to avoid a contract change or extension.

Because the market for them is so much bigger, the high-quality GSM and Verizon devices seem to retain their value for much longer... which is good if you're selling, bad if you're buying.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

rogueippacket (1977626) | about a year ago | (#44705911)

Coverage is a little lacking in some areas that I go, but that is sprints fault, hopefully they will build out more.

The mobile market is always fascinating. Ting piggybacks on Sprint's network (ultimately driving down revenue for Sprint) and does not build any of their own infrastructure, yet their customers point the finger right back at Sprint when coverage becomes an issue.
The future is pretty straightforward for companies like Ting - once they have a large enough customer base and start taking a measurable chunk of Sprint's revenue, Sprint will either buy them out or lobby for legislation to shut them down. Sure, Sprint makes some money for each Ting device on the network, but not enough to justify brand new towers, and so long as that is true, Ting cannot exist without Sprint's willful participation.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44705961)

Better yet we Ting starts building its own towers and offers this service via something like a peering agreement back to sprint. Ideally we would have forced compatible networks onto the providers and your phone would hop onto whatever tower was cheapest for your service provider to buy service from.

A better free marketish approach would have been to separate infrastructure from service. Let company A sell connectivity to Company B that provides the service. Thus A has no reason not to work with Companies C and D.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706135)

Is TIng taking Sprint's revenue? Or is it taking revenue from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile and sending some of it Sprint's way instead? I just advised my mother-in-law to go to Ting, from T-Mobile. Sprint has better coverage where she is. She wasn't keen on paying $100 a month for a smartphone account though, so Sprint would not otherwise have gotten any share of her business.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | about a year ago | (#44710159)

Just went from P-Tel (used to be Sprint CDMA now is T-Mobile GSM) to Ecomobile (Sprint). T-Mobile has virtually no coverage on their own equipment in my state, so I had to find another MVNO. Thought of trying a Verizon or AT&T MVNO, but I know that Verizon's coverage at my house is crap. Ecomobile's rates are pretty much the same as P-Tel's though. Talk 5/min, Text 2/text, Data 10/mb, MMS 10/mms.
Works great for someone that uses the phone as a phone, and not as an internet terminal.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#44706281)

You're assuming Ting is a net revenue drain on Sprint. Do you have evidence?
I suspect the situation is like this: Sprint wants customers that bring in, say, a profit margin of $30 per customer per month. Ting resells Sprint's service and brings in customers at, say, a profit margin of $3 per customer per month to Sprint. Sprint would rather have the $30 than $3, but if not for Ting the customer would be using AT&T or Verizon, so Sprint would instead get $0 and in turn Sprint's two biggest competitors would have more revenue for widening their infrastructure advantage.

Yes, Ting is squeezing the margins down. I can't imagine it's eliminating margins entirely, they must have a profitability plan in place.

I've been a satisfied Ting customer for six months, I spend about $20 per month on the service and in two months I'm going to add a phone for my son. It will be $100 or so for a refurbished middle grade Android phone and then maybe $10 added per month for his usage.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706595)

Actually SPRINT loves the additional traffic as it, apparently, is bringing more new business than downgrading existing.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44711153)

Many name brand food manufacturers will also produce comparable store brand versions of their same product line that directly competes with their branded product. Nothing new going on here. Companies are just trying to make a buck by targeting both brand loyal customers with some disposable income, and bargain hunters. These bargain hunters are likely to move on from the big boys one way or another, but at least Sprint can make some side cash from it's infrastructure that might otherwise be under utilized.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44705949)

Your post is very informative on the sad, sad state of communications in the US. "You can bring over devices from other carriers that use the same technology" should never be an advantage, because it is assumed you can. Never had a problem with this, anywhere but in the US. Also, why would a network provider "care" about what you flash on your phone? Seriously, you guys put up with way too much crap there.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year ago | (#44706467)

The thing is Network providers love installing bundles of " we either got paid for the ap or we get paid when the ap gets used" things so if folks decide to flash vanilla images they get cut out of that money.

on another note does anybody know (as in has done it themselves) how to flash the recovery image on an HTC thunderbolt that has the latest V firmware?? (im wanting to root it so i can evict the V aps).

Oh btw i do not want to lose the data so nothing that does a hard reset.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706619)

You should to a backup if you are going to flash a new image.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44712137)

>> Seriously, you guys put up with way too much crap there
Well, you're not taking into consideration a sad reality about the U.S. Despite all the '...free market...' bullshit that we claim as some badge of honor it's just not how things work here. The telecommunications sector has a monopolistic lock on services. We only have four dominating, controlling corporations that make up the fractured foundation we're stuck with -- AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. While they are in fierce competition with each other, they also work in collusion to control the market, and by shoveling tons of cash into Washington D.C. they're able to stifle any kind of regulation or substantive oversight. It's not that we put up with it, we have no options to speak of.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Michael Casavant (2876793) | about a year ago | (#44706035)

I second that. What's interesting is that Sprint's data rates are pretty bad, but their voice quality is pretty good. I can still hold conversations with very weak signal. Ting's customer service is located in the USA and is the best I've ever had to deal with. Someone picks up almost immediately...no menu systems to deal with EVER. The reps are have all been extremely nice, will and able to help out with almost any issue (within their power to handle, anyway. I bought an HTC One used and didn't realize Sprint wouldn't let them activate it. My fault, not theirs). I have a couple of phones I use for different reasons and it's nice to have 2-3 active phones all sharing a single usage pool but only charging a small amount every month ($6/mo per phone to have it active).

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#44713537)

Once an area has been upgraded to Network Vision data rates are fine, I got 15278 down 8673 up on one of the first 4g cells to go live in my market the other day (we're legacy Motorola so we're fairly late for a major market and only a few isolated cells have been turned up)

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706477)

Ting is awesome. I've had my last month with Sprint. $90 with them. $23 with Ting. Same freakin' phone (my Galaxy S2 / Epic 4G Touch). I was switched to Ting in just a few hours.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year ago | (#44706633)

We went from $140 a month for 2 lines on T-Mobile to ~$50 month for the same 2 lines on Ting. If you are mostly in WiFi rich areas during the day or just don't use a lot of data it is an excellent value. And their customer service is top notch. For anyone who's been on the internet for a while they will know the company since Ting is a TUCOWS endeavor. I'd be happier if they were on a GSM/LTE carrier but I haven't found a better value. I've already recouped the cost of the 2 phones we bought in saving and referral fees ($25 for each referral plus if you use someone's referral code [ting.com] ,hint hint..., you also get a $25 signing credit.

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year ago | (#44709357)

I'm hoping Cricket dies, because... I mean I get the small operator thing and competition and whatnot, but I've seen their "You can pay $10 or $20!" commercials like ... I'll see 18 cricket commercials in a row, and then some gay ass Bud Light commercial when I'm watching YouTube videos. I checked? Costs the same as T-Mobile for greatly reduced service, not half as god damn much as anything.

T-Mobile isn't even half as much as Verizon, and they're claiming they cost half as much. I pay $60/mo on T-Mobile for unlimited texts and 2GB data and 450 talk, versus like $96 on verizon for unlimited talk and text and data that I was paying when I switched. The difference is Verizon billed this as under $80, plus fees, plus taxes, bringing it up by $15-$18 more; T-Mobile bills this as $50/mo plus I pay $5/mo for the 2GB data plan, and I wind up with $5 in taxes and fees. So I'm like ... Cricket isn't half as expensive; Verizon's comparable plans are cheaper, Cricket isn't offering as much, and T-Mobile is offering more for the same amount!

They can all die. I don't want to see your commercial 8000 times. I flag Zoosk as inappropriate on Facebook all the time because they ran an ad campaign that amounts to "Women are morons, and get taken in by moron men who are even stupider and obviously taking advantage of them" on every fucking youtube video I watched for 4 months straight. "So I'm a fireman. Uhhh. And I uh. Like. I like puppies." "Ohhh god...he's so hot!" "Huhuhuh." Wow that's the dumbest bitch I've EVER seen, and that dude is going to play her like a retarded fiddle and probably bang her sister and half her friends too, and he's probably as smart as an expired jar of mayonnaise. That makes her dumber than a brick made of shit. You too could take advantage of ridiculously stupid women and get loads of head! Join Zoosk! Watching another YouTube video? You can't skip the ad, better watch this 45 second long Zoosk ad first! See how dumb this retarded bitch is? You could be hooking up with her RIGHT NOW while you plan how you're going to leave town good lord she has some sweet tits!

Re:Hopefully VoLTE will make this even bigger (1)

Builder (103701) | about a year ago | (#44716399)

We just call that 'normal'.

The whole idea of your cell provider choosing your hardware or not letting you use a phone on their network is really confusing to most of the world.

mobile is a commodity now (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44705835)

happens with everything. new product/service comes out and people are first willing to pay a premium. a few years later once everyone uses it people start looking to save money since its now a commodity

same with smartphones. the cheapo ones are more than good enough for most people so there is no reason to buy the newest iphone or galaxy s4

i'm planning to keep my iphone 5 for 3-4 years and move to t-mobile to save money. t-mobile gets this. AT&T and Verizon are trying to fight for the customers willing to pay cash for lots of data and new phones every year. sprint is screwed

MVNOs are a great option (2)

metalmaster (1005171) | about a year ago | (#44705883)

You often get the coverage and reach of the leased carrier for maybe half the cost. A typical "all you can eat" from a MVNO will cost $50-60 compared to a $80-100+ bill from the leased counterpart. The caveat here is that you're going to pay closer to retail for your handset

Contract carriers are beginning to do some interesting things to their plan structure and handset pricing like abolishing contracts and handset "lock in" but they still want you to pay an arm and a leg for such services. T-Mobile has done the best as far as price goes....they'll lower your recurring monthly charge to $50, but then you have to tack on a $20-30 fee for a handset that youre basically financing

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44705971)

You can just buy a phone outright, you know that right? Then there is no $20 fee at all.

If you cannot afford $250-$800 for a smartphone you can't afford to be spending $50+/month on service.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | about a year ago | (#44706093)

Oh, i know. I paid outright for my GS3 last year and through some trade-in magic I got a HTC One a few months back all to keep my plan as cheap as possible

Re:MVNOs are a great option (3, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | about a year ago | (#44706327)

This is only viable on T-Mobile.

With AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, you pay that fee whether or not you paid for your phone outright.

With the Nexus 4 at $199 now, paying outright isn't exactly a bad thing.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706381)

Small correction because it applies to me, right now I must pay full price for phones on VZW or they will take my unlimited plan away and charge me for many more minutes I do not want.

Also you can do what I describe on AT&T via a MVNO like Straight Talk.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about a year ago | (#44717941)

To be clear, I meant that it's only viable on a major carrier with T-Mo.

MVNOs are a whole other story, although the primaries are now trying to crack down.

For example, you can no longer get Straight Talk SIMs on AT&T. Net10 SIMs are limited to 1.5GB/month if on AT&T, and it's EXTREMELY difficult to get one on AT&T. If T-Mobile has ANY coverage in the area code you input (even if only EDGE), you only are offered T-Mobile SIMs.

Red Pocket is more expensive ($60 for 3GB/mo) but at least it's not difficult to get AT&T SIMs with them.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#44706403)

The Sprint owned MVNO's are basically the same as T-Mobile, you buy the phone up front and pay a significantly reduced monthly cost $35/45/55 for Virgin Mobile (300/1200/unlimited minutes with 2.5GB of data and unlimited SMS/MMS)

There are some drawbacks, though (2)

SIGBUS (8236) | about a year ago | (#44706357)

In particular, MVNOs often have very restricted or non-existent roaming in areas where the underlying carrier doesn't have any towers. Even if roaming is available for talk and text, it will often be shut off for data. This is even common on prepaid plans by the carriers themselves, or captive MVNOs like Virgin Mobile USA and Boost, both owned by Sprint.

Also, carriers give priority to direct subscribers over MVNO customers (which makes sense to me).

On the plus side, though, you can get usable service on the cheap, and if you're using an unlocked GSM phone, you can switch carriers/MVNOs easily enough by popping in a new SIM (watch out for different radio bands being used for 3G/4G, though).

Re:MVNOs are a great option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706371)

I switched to Ting (remember tucows) a few months ago, they are a sprint MVNO, I paid $300 for my wife's phone htc evo lte (brand new on ebay) and $170 for my galaxy nexus (slightly used) and we pay 1/2 of what we paid with verizon for 1 smart/1 dump phone. Our last bill was $57 for both phones.

Fly by night (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#44706575)

My experience with Amp'd some years back was not great. I paid $100-$200 (I forget) to get started and they went out of business a few weeks later.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#44707151)

Where can I find a cell phone plan that works like my calling card? I put 300 minutes on my calling card, oh 10 years ago. I've used about 80 of them. The minutes are still there. Every prepaid cell phone plan I can find expires minutes on an annual basis (at best) but requires me to buy far, far more minutes than I need.

What's the right cell phone plan for someone who expects to never ever use his cell phone, but wants one for emergencies and emergencies only?

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#44707357)

If you ever figure that out let us know. I have been looking for a while and haven't found one. Although if you want a cellphone for real emergencies (911 service only) then just get a cellphone that works and keep it charged.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

JazzLad (935151) | about a year ago | (#44708257)

Sorry for the dupe post, but I don't know if you'll go back to look - I replied to Hatta - Page Plus is the cheapest MVNO out there from a purely $/mo perspective - I pay $2.50/mo (that's literally it, no taxes, etc) for a line for my daughter. Scroll up for more details :)

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

JazzLad (935151) | about a year ago | (#44708233)

$10/4 months/100 minutes [pagepluscellular.com] Gotta remember to pay the $10 3 times a year, but close to what you want.

I have used it for my 9 year old daughter's line since she turned 8, it's perfect for emergency use & minutes roll-over, so when she actually starts to use the phone more often, she'll have minutes banked.

Service is VZW, I use the $80/yr plan & am on track to get a whole year out of it (2000 minutes, I use voip when on wifi). I can recommend a dealer if anyone wants, he has taken really good care of me.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#44708255)

Gotta remember to pay the $10 3 times a year, but close to what you want

That's just ridiculous. Why can't they let me pay $30 once a year? No, they've got to jack it up to $80. Hell, I'll pay $300 for 10 years, just don't expire the fucking minutes. What a scam.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (1)

JazzLad (935151) | about a year ago | (#44708629)

Well, the $80 is for 2000 minutes, not 300, so there's that, and they never claimed to be a 'cell phone plan that works like [a] calling card' but are closer to one than anyone else is in the US (I have investigated every MVNO registered in the US). I agree that it would be useful, but I suspect that if there was enough (actual) demand for a line like that, there would be a plan for it.

I'm with you, I would prefer what you describe; my PP dealer will let me put the $10 on 'auto-pay' but the 'auto' part is only automatic for me, he actually has to do it manually 3x/yr, so he charges a $2 fee. Still, $36/yr billed automatically at $12 every 120 days is awfully close to what you/I want (except the minutes do expire after 365 days, so on this plan, you would have a maximum of 300 minutes at any given time), I'll send you his contact info if you want it.

Re:MVNOs are a great option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44708895)

The right plan is a brand new, unactivated prepaid phone. You can buy them for $10 at Target. Activate it when you need it.

Anyone know of a good list of these companies? (3, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | about a year ago | (#44705889)

I couple of months back, I picked up an unlocked GSM Pre3, and I haven't had a chance yet to really dig into which of the pre-paid companies offer good terms for smartphones for my usage pattern.

I know that Phone Scoop [phonescoop.com] has a list, but it doesn't mention the 4 virtual carriers mentioned in the article summary.

Re:Anyone know of a good list of these companies? (2)

sanjosanjo (804469) | about a year ago | (#44706653)

I couple of months back, I picked up an unlocked GSM Pre3, and I haven't had a chance yet to really dig into which of the pre-paid companies offer good terms for smartphones for my usage pattern.

I know that Phone Scoop [phonescoop.com] has a list, but it doesn't mention the 4 virtual carriers mentioned in the article summary.

I've been recently looking at http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2011/02/best-prepaid-voice-plans.html [prepaidphonenews.com] and http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2011/02/best-prepaid-data-carriers-and-plans.html [prepaidphonenews.com]

best thing that could happen to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706039)

For example here in Spain the big mobile providers are thugs, thiefs, you name it.

They charge a connection fee (beside the usual per minute fee) even when calling on the same network and its not cheap, with taxes can be even 0.20 euro-cents per connection +10-15-20-30 cents per minute. Im talking about prepay cards. But dont be fooled that regular, monthly contracts are alot better. They give some minutes included in there but after the minutes are done you`re back to almost the same as prepay costs.

Now the MVNO came to scene and they are pretty cool. For example one of them, no name to not be blamed for publicity, gives for prepay cards 400 minutes mobiles/landlines in Spain (and also lots of landlines in Europe, even some countries mobiles included) and 500mb of 3G internet for 15 euros all taxes included and there is no connection fee for those 400 minutes. The same offer from whatever big provider would be at least 30 euros + taxes and of course monthly contract.

What cool part is that they are using the network of one of the big guys and the coverage is excellent.

So yea, long live MVNOs!

Re:best thing that could happen to us (1)

Inda (580031) | about a year ago | (#44706225)

That's interesting. I've travelled to Spain, from the UK, more times than I can remember and every other advert on the TV is for mobile phones. I thought Spain must be very competitive for phone charges.

I too use an MVNO on the O2 network. When I travel to Spain, I pay the following:

Calls to the UK = 24p (28 euro-cents) per minute

Receiving calls = 7p (8 euro-cents) per minute. We all hate this. Most of us wont answer the phone while abroad.

Send SMS text = 8p (9 euro-cents) per text. We all hate this too, as SMS texts are pretty much free all the time in the UK.

Re:best thing that could happen to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706339)

well with this new MVNO you can call in those 400 minutes both mobiles and landlines in UK
to these landlines: 441, 442, 4430, 4433, 4434, 4437
to these mobiles: 4475 (excepto 447509), 4477 (excepto 447797), 4478 (excepto 4478730), 4479 (excepto 447937), 447407, 447409, 447410, 447415,

Re:best thing that could happen to us (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706373)

Come visit the USA one time.
If I take my phone to Canada, less distance that UK to Spain, about a 20 minute drive from my current location, the prices are over a dollar per min call/text.

You with a GSM phone can get a prepaid SIM while you are in Spain.

Get the latest smartphones (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year ago | (#44706041)

These companies need the newest iPhones, Galaxies (Galaxys?), and whatever else from Moto/HTC in order to be taken seriously. No one wants to pick up a new phone that came straight out of last year.

Also stop charging for text messages. Everyone knows it's bullcrap.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706173)

These companies need the newest iPhones, Galaxies (Galaxys?), and whatever else from Moto/HTC in order to be taken seriously. No one wants to pick up a new phone that came straight out of last year.

Also stop charging for text messages. Everyone knows it's bullcrap.

Did you even RTFS? They do get the latest handsets (excluding iPhone in some cases) and the Google Nexus 4 just got a price drop; it's a current generation smartphone that you can get new in box with warranty for $209 and works on Lyca, AirVoice, Ptel, GoSmartMobile, Straight Talk, Simple Mobile, H2O, and more.

As for texting, there are two sides to that story. Text messages are NOT free for carriers; as someone in touch with many mobile operators i can assure you, SMS management is not "Free" just because the bandwidth is negligible. It takes reliable infrastructure (in _addition_ to the normal voice network) and they put a lot of effort into spam management as well.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44706399)

No, in GSM SMS messages are part of the voice network. Email has to deal with a lot more spam and is FREE or very low cost.

There is only one side to that story the carriers are gouging because they can get away with it. The people you are in touch with are feeding you a line of bullshit because they want to make more money.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706611)

No, in GSM SMS messages are part of the voice network. Email has to deal with a lot more spam and is FREE or very low cost.

There is only one side to that story the carriers are gouging because they can get away with it. The people you are in touch with are feeding you a line of bullshit because they want to make more money.

Spam-protected email is free or low-cost when the provider desperately wants your eyeballs (and/or your secrets). All 4 network operators in the US offer very cheap SMS plans and the all have MVNOs that almost exclusively offer unlimited SMS, so why don't people just use those options instead of paying $.25 per message? It's hardly gouging when there are so many cheap/free alternatives out there. I suppose you also think gasoline should be sold coast to coast at the cost of the crude it takes to make it, lest they "gouge" customers? Save that word for when it's actually needed, sparky.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (1)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about a year ago | (#44709675)

No, in GSM SMS messages are part of the voice network. [...]

Besides the voice network's control channel the short messages can also be transported on the data network which has a much higher capacity even for 2G.
All those phones that normally stay connected to the Internet (pretty much all smartphones and feature phones) can send and receive SMS with little latency and with less congestion.
For the operators short messages are still a cash cow and will remain so even if they reduce prices 10 times.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (2)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#44706331)

As anonymous coward said above, read the article. Some of the MVNOs DO offer the latest phones. The ting.com service uses Sprint's infrastructure - and in some places that sucks - but you can get a Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, or an HTC One. They don't have an iPhone yet, so Apple fans are out of luck. But otherwise, that's the best Android currently has to offer other than maybe the latest from LG.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (1)

emjames (66836) | about a year ago | (#44706651)

Yes, sprint isn't the greatest in all areas, but I drove from VA to FL to TX and we had pretty decent service the whole time, I think we lost it a few times in the middle of nowhere MS and AK, but voice roams on Verizon, so it's decent for emergencies. But around town and in all the places I've been it works great (3G is a little pokey sometimes). If you're using 4-5+GB of data a month, it's not for you, and that's why the VZWs and ATTs exist. I rarely go over 1GB of data a month (2 phones). But there are tons of people that don't care about data roaming or speeds, they just don't want to spend $80+/phone/month.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (1)

DuckDodgers (541817) | about a year ago | (#44710141)

I don't care about data, I almost never use it unless I'm on wifi anyway. But I do like to reliably send and receive phone calls, and my Ting.com phone, and my Virgin Mobile phone before it (Virgin Mobile also uses the Sprint network) have awful reception around my house. My wife's Verizon phone works flawlessly - at literally four times the monthly cost.

Re:Get the latest smartphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706447)

But then, who buys their mobile phone from the network? A SIM-only plan is almost always cheaper and offers more choice both in phones and in plans.

you know what's nice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706103)

not dealing with the damn kiosk people

1. You walk into the store. Let's say that you have a little kid with you, who gets bored easily.
2. You sit down with 'Rick' from sales to discuss contracts. You get an usurious data plan. 'Would you like unlimited texting as well?'
3. 2 hours later, phone, screaming kid. Bleh.

Also, you want to buy an SD card? Here's one for sale, with a 150% markup. Enjoy!

Ting was great: I bought the phone online, it was delivered to my house, and any questions I had were answered by the great helpdesk. In fact, I think that's why Hover got into the business, they were like, 'We've got a great helpdesk, what should we do with it?'

No kiosk, no store, no contract, buy your card at Radio Shack in January for a steal, done and done! My only regret is that my phone has a Sprint logo on it. Who needs that?

Re:you know what's nice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44708967)

Why the fuck would you go to a kiosk? Are you retarded? You can buy a phone and any plan online from every carrier. This is not some special feature exclusive to MVNOs.

Can you really save $1,000 a year with an MVNO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44706125)

So the premise here is a win-win-win scenario, right? The carrier wins because they can supposedly reach a new niche that they otherwise weren't able target profitably. The MVNO wins, because they don't have to build out infrastructure to target this niche, and can use the primary carrier's towers and infrastructure (they also can cut out the "first class" phone support you might kind of get with a major carrier), and bottom line here.. you as the consumer win because - on you 2 person plan, you cut your bill by about $1,000 a year. That's the plan anyway.

So are you considering switching to an MVNO like Straight Talk, but not quite sure what the whole story is? Maybe you're worried that about coverage, or about losing your phone number. Or maybe you're concerned about the data plan, or the type of phone you'll end up with. And at the end of the day, it's the bottom line that counts... can you really save you $1,000 per year, and accomplish that with zero frustration? If so, you might want to check out my Unofficial Straight Talk eBook available over on Leanpub.com ... https://leanpub.com/StraightTalkGuide

if anyone was wondering (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#44706463)

what the hell a mobile virtual network is:

A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) (or mobile other licensed operator (MOLO) in the United Kingdom) is a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which the MVNO provides services to its customers.

so....headline reads: "wireless resellers are cash cows"

Re:if anyone was wondering (1)

Hypotensive (2836435) | about a year ago | (#44706997)

In other words, a middleman.

Yea, we could build a straight road that takes you from A to B directly. But it's just so much nicer to build one that goes via C: the driver gets great views, C can build a tollbooth or service station, and the tire and petroleum guys gotta get their cut somehow!

Been using an MVNO (1)

p51d007 (656414) | about a year ago | (#44706919)

For over a year. Other than some spotty coverage in the sticks, I really haven't had that much of an issue. Never had LTE, so I don't "miss" the speed of LTE. H+, for my usage is good enough, since if I'm doing anything other than surfing a website, I just use wireless. I can get "all you can eat" (for me that is around 12-1500 voice, 300 text, 200-300 emails per month usage) for less than 50 bucks. My contract was over with at&t, and I was spending over 120.00 per month for the same usage. Saving over 600 bucks a year? That allows me to buy a NEW phone off contract about once a year if I wanted, but It will be over 2 years when I buy my new phone, that's around 600 extra dollars in my pocket. Yeah, it's a hit off the bat, if you do off contract, but if you discipline yourself, if you are struggling financially, it can be done. Until people wake up to the ripoff that the USA carriers do to the public, it won't change. They throw a bone here and there, but they are still way overcharging, for what you get.

Sprint won't let VM phones go to Ting (2)

msk (6205) | about a year ago | (#44707079)

Sprint won't let Virgin Mobile phones be moved to Ting. I am a Ting customer but would like to have my old Virgin Mobile phone as a backup or even as an optional third number. Sprint has already gotten the revenue from me for that phone and won't give a palatable answer for why they won't allow it to be used.

"They don't allow it" is a wholly unacceptable answer and it's the best I've received.

Re:Sprint won't let VM phones go to Ting (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about a year ago | (#44709063)

"They don't allow it" is a wholly unacceptable answer and it's the best I've received.

How about "We ran the numbers and allowing Virgin Mobile users to move to Ting would cost us $10M in additional system integration charges while not doing so would cost $2M in potentially lost customers. I think the company made the right decision there, don't you?" More acceptable or comforting? Maybe not, but probably closer to the truth.

Service issues? (1)

ChemGeek4501 (1044544) | about a year ago | (#44707711)

I live in a predominantly ATT area and a couple of years ago tried one of the ATT MVNOs for a month. What I found was worse coverage, a lot of dropped calls, (more) unreliabe data and generally sucky service. I reinstalled the ATT SIM and reset the phone in less than a week. About 2 weeks later I came across an article (I think here on /.) that pretty much said that MVNOs were treated as "2nd class citizens" on the respective network so it pretty much made sense. I haven't seen anything to support the notion that has changed in the last 2 years since the test.

ting rocks (1)

frinky525 (210472) | about a year ago | (#44709075)

i recently switched from sprint to ting and it was painless. kept my two smartphones, ported the numbers, and my monthly bill dropped from $135/month to $33/month (for two lines). the customer account section of their website is a model of simplicity and effectiveness. the only downside is that it's not unlimited - the more you use the more you pay, especially for data. but texts are cheap and if you're like us and have wifi most of the time it's a killer deal. HIGHLY recommended.

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