Home - , , , - Too Little, Too Late - Virgin Mobile Finally Gets Limited BYOP

Too Little, Too Late - Virgin Mobile Finally Gets Limited BYOP

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In telecom, BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) means allowing customers to use the compatible phones they already own on your service. Sprint, the smallest of the four national US operators, has long resisted BYOP for no good reason that I can see.

The other three national carriers have embraced BYOP more or less enthusiastically while Sprint has thrown up all sorts of roadblocks against it. You can't use a phone sold for Sprint postpaid on Sprint Prepaid or Virgin Mobile. You can only use a limited number of Sprint phones on Boost. Using a phone sold for one Sprint prepaid brand, such as Boost Mobile, on a different Sprint Prepaid brand like Virgin Mobile is strictly prohibited. None of these restrictions makes technical sense as Sprint postpaid phones and the phones sold for all three prepaid of Sprint's prepaid brands support the same network technologies and bands.

Yesterday, Sprint quietly opened the BYOP door a tiny bit. You can now use certain iPhone models and the unlocked Special Edition versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge sold by Best Buy on Virgin Mobile. Here's the complete list of non-Virgin Mobile phones that can be used on Virgin Mobile:

  • iPhone 7 (Verizon Only)
  • iPhone 7 Plus (Verizon Only)
  • iPhone SE (Verizon Only)
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 5s (Verizon Only)
  • iPhone 5c (Verizon Only)
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Special Edition
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Special Edition
Bizarrely, you still can't use the Sprint or Boost Mobile iPhones or the Sprint Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge on Virgin. Sprint also seems to be making activation of non-Virgin Mobile phones as difficult as possible. They aren't selling SIMs online. Even if you already have or manage to obtain a Sprint SIM, you can't activate it on Virgin Mobile online or by calling Virgin Mobile customer care. The only way to activate one of the ten phones listed above on Virgin Mobile is by taking it to a Sprint Dealer or a Radio Shack store. A $10 SIM purchase is required. BYOP devices can be activated on either of Virgin's two current monthly plans:

  • $35/month, unlimited, talk, messaging and data with the first 5 GB at high speeds
  • $45/month, unlimited, talk, messaging and data with the first 10 GB at high speeds
Sprint is struggling financially and has the smallest and slowest network. You would think they would want make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get their phones on the Sprint network. Allowing some non-Virgin Mobile phones on Virgin, even with all the restrictions, is a step in the right direction. But Sprint needs to do much more to encourage BYOP, which would help them to gain badly needed customers.  To start with Sprint should get rid of the ban using Boost phones on Virgin and vice versa. It makes no sense technically or financially. Forcing customers to buy a new subsidized phone to switch from one prepaid Sprint brand to another is expensive for both the customer and for Sprint. It frustrates and angers customers and encourages them to find a different operator that isn't so restrictive.

I sort of understand the reasoning behind blocking postpaid phones on prepaid. I think Sprint management fears that if they allowed postpaid users to use their phones on less expensive prepaid, many postpaid customers make the switch to prepaid, hurting Sprint's bottom line. But I believe that reasoning is flawed. Once a customer has run the numbers and determined that they can save money with prepaid they have already made up their mind to make the switch. Sprint has lost that customer as a postpaid customer, but they can still have a chance to keep them as a prepaid customer. Allowing the customer switching to prepaid to use their current phone gives the customer an incentive to stay with a Sprint prepaid brand. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all seem to understand that and allow users switching from postpaid to prepaid to keep their phones. Sprint does not and I believe that's typical of the clueless management that's made Sprint number four.

Source: Virgin Mobile

24 comments:

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  1. Why hasn't Sprint killed Virgin Mobile in favor of Boost, or vice versa and migrated customers? Boost has a certain...reputation around where I live; does VM not have that?

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    1. I doubt Sprint will kill Virgin or Boost. Having multiple brands is a common business strategy. It gives Sprint twice the shelf space at Target, Best Buy and Walmart; allows then to market to different populations and gives consumers the illusion of competition and choice.

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    2. Dennis, that would make a lot of sense if both brands were growing. They're losing over 300K customers a quarter all while double their operating cost (marketing, devices, customer service, branding, employees, etc.) It would be one thing if they were actively promoting the brands at different demographics, but for the past 4 years they've done absolutely nothing. Marcelo doesn't want prepaid to hurt post-paid growth, yet they've decided to hemorrhage money in that sector (cost-cutting?). MetroPCS and Cricket are a good examples of targeting both demos (urban and millennial) without fracturing your brand. It's quite baffling Sprint would toss-away these customers onto wholesale (MVNOs) when price-sensitive customers are their biggest asset.

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    3. You might be right. But without access to Sprint's books to find the added cost of maintaining two brands and market research to determine how much the loss of shelf space, etc. combining Virgin and Boost would hurt sales we will never know.

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    4. My anecdotal experience is that Virgin and Boost have been marketed to distinct tribes, and any attempt to combine them would result in a loss of brand-identity for at least one group, and possibly the loss of "goodwill" from both.

      Boost, Metro, and a few lesser-known brands may have good service and good value, but if I have to go to one of their retail stores, which tend to be located moreso in certain parts of town, I am exposed to negative social behavior that I've spent my life trying to avoid.

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  2. No reason for Sprint to offer,
    Sprint pre-paid, Boost mobile prepaid, Virgin mobile prepaid.
    They need 3 prepaid branches? All on the same towers.

    Sprint post paid, Boost prepaid. Cut operating costs.

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    1. With three brands, they can look ridiculous and non-competitive and fail three times as much.

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  3. I love Boost. I think if you are lucky to have them work for you, they work well. I'm rooting for the underdog. I hope Sprint comes around.

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    1. Yeah... if you live in the 10 states in the US covered well by Sprint. But this underdog don't hunt in 40 states.

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  4. No Nexus 5, 5x, 6, or 6p. What is Sprint thinking?

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  5. Sprint Prepaid has not been changed almost six years. They need some action for thier brands.

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  6. What exactly is the Special Edition Galaxy S7/S7 Edge? Is it simply the unlocked version sold by Best Buy or is it more specific than that? I've never heard of a special edition for these phones.

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    1. The unlocked S7 is model number SM-G930U, the S7 Edge is SM-G935U. They are US market unlocked versions with no carrier bloatware. They are whitelisted by both Verizon and Sprint and work on all four operators.

      Fun Fact: All US market S7 and S7 Edges have the same hardware and it's possible to flash the "U" firmware on the AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint models. I don't think that will make the AT&T, T-Mobile or verizon models work on Sprint because their IMEI's aren't whitelisted by Sprint.

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    2. "All US market S7 and S7 Edges have the same hardware"

      Is this really true, Dennis? I've read that the U models don't have 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM on T-Mobile while the T models do. Is that because of a hardware deficiency or Samsung not updating the U models?

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    3. Is it really true? You'd have to ask the right Samsung mobile radio engineer for a definitive answer. But according to someone on XDA it's true :).

      I believe I read that you can flash the "T" version firmware on the the "U" version to enable T-Mobile specific features like Wi-Fi calling, but whether that will enable 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM I don't know. If you have a few hours to kill reading through XDA threads you might find the answer.

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  7. What? No special edition of the Galaxy Note 7? Virgin could sell them at a deep discount.

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  8. "No Nexus 5, 5x, 6, or 6p. What is Sprint thinking?"

    Or Moto X PE, 4th Gen Moto G, Plus or Play?

    Sprint is FUBAR!

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  9. I was a loyal Virgin Mobile customer for almost 20 years till the S7 Edge came out and Virgin Mobile wasnt carrying it. And I jumped ship.

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  10. "I sort of understand the reasoning behind blocking postpaid phones on prepaid. I think Sprint management fears that if they allowed postpaid users to use their phones on less expensive prepaid, many postpaid customers make the switch to prepaid, hurting Sprint's bottom line."

    Certainly flawed reasoning since it does not apply to those who want to use a second hand Sprint Post-Paid Paid device on a Sprint Pre-Paid Sub? So SSprint chases away potential customers with these ludicrous policies.

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  11. It's not so much the marketing, it's the value. Virgin offers less than half of the coverage of Cricket. So the price difference should be a lot lower than it is.

    More people would be willing to put up with a phone that only works here and there if the service costs a lot less than it does.

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  12. I had Sprint postpaid (iPhone 4S) starting in Jan 2012 thru Feb 2014, then switched to Virgin mobile (galaxy S3) in Feb 2014, I then bought iPhone 6 and 6S in July 2015 and Dec 2015. Sprint CEO says that prepaid has very little profitability and incentive to spend big on marketing for growth in that sector. So that is one reason. Another theory I have is that Sprint likes how consumers can spend big money paying all upfront for Boost and Virgin handsets. Right now, Sprint has a debt problem and they can benefit using the cashflow that comes with prepaid users paying a lot of money upfront to use an newest iPhone and newest galaxy on Virgin and Boost networks.

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  13. Sprint simply is its own worst enemy. And their only real hope is that Trump's FCC will allow Sprint to try and buy out Tmobile. Again. But this time, the asking price is gonna be $90 billion. No amount of money can save Sprint. They should just have Tmobile reverse merger with Sprint, kill Sprint and make it all Tmobile with Legere and team in charge. If they put Sprint's management in charge they will just have wasted 90 billion dollars...

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  14. Hofo ID Grateful4AdviceJanuary 9, 2017 at 4:32 AM

    Dennis you may want to investigate this:

    “I envision Virgin as being our disruptive brand,” Claure continued. “You’re going to see us test different models. One model we’re testing that we like is a potential—rather than subsidizing handsets, actually providing free airtime with no subsidy on the handset. So you’re going to see Virgin be our disrupter brand.”

    http://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/sprint-plots-strategy-for-virgin-s-relaunch-as-boost-returns-to-growth

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    1. I think Claure is talking about a Virgin Mobile promotion that Sprint is testing at Best Buy stores in some markets.

      For $179.99 you get a LG X Power with five months of bundled service on Virgin's $35 plan.

      It's not a new idea, TracFone has been doing the same thing for years with its HSN and QVC bundles.

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