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The Glorious MVNO Reinvention at Mobilize

I'm at GigaOM's Mobilize conference today where I watched a panel discussion on "The Glorious MVNO Reinvention" that featured the CEOs of three Sprint MVNOs. David Morken from Bandwidth.com (Republic Wireless), FreedomPop's Stephen Stokol and Elliot Noss of Tucows (Ting). The panel was moderated by GigaOM Senior Writer Kevin Fitchard.

I've covered Republic Wireless "The mobile network that runs on Freedom" quite a bit here on PrepaidPhoneNews. They are running a closed Beta of a service that offloads voice, messaging and data to WiFi wherever it's available to offer unlimited everything for $19/month (plus about $5 in taxes).

FreedomPop's slogan is "The Internet is a right, not a privilege". It's a soon to launch, broadband data Clear and Sprint MVNO that bills itself as "Dropbox for data". FreedomPop offers mobile data for free with a "freemium" model that gives users 500 MB/month for free. Overage data is $10/GB and users can trade unused data with others. The service is supposed to launch this year. Initial devices will be $99 WiFi  sleds for the iPhone and iPod.

Ting "Mobile that makes sense", which is the only one of the three that you can currently buy and use, has a unique tiered pricing structure starting at $6/month, where the more data, messaging or data you use the lower the per unit price becomes. For example, the first 100 minutes costs $3. Use more and you are are automatically moved to the $8 500 minute tier for the current month. Ting has an wide range of devices ranging from a $73 LG Optimus S to the new Samsung Galaxy S II for $529.

The panelists agreed that MVNOs are poised to disrupt the US mobile business with new business models that will make pricing more reasonable and rational.  Most of the discussion centered around what a lousy deal US mobile operators give their customers and how MVNOs will shake up the industry to give users a better deal.

There were some good sound bites for prepaid fans. My favorites:

  • The average US family spends more on mobile service plans than they do for food - Republic's Morken. 
  • Carriers use high overage charges on voice and data buckets to "screw you" into overbuying a bigger plan than you really need. By going with an MVNO customers can save 40% to 70% over a postpaid plan from a carrier. - Noss from Ting 
I spoke briefly with Ting's Noss after the event. He confirmed that BYOSP (Bring your own Sprint device, as long as it's not an iPhone) was still on track to launch at Ting this year. He said that activating BYOSP devices would remove their ESNs from Sprint's database which means that they couldn't be easily reactivated on Sprint.  Ting is also working on allowing devices from Verizon too, but that won't happen in 2012.

 I also spoke with FreedomPop's Stokols. I asked him about activating phones on FreedomPop for data only and he said that wasn't possible. He said he has tried with his own phones and Clear wouldn't allow them to activate. However, he did say that FreedomPop is very interested in offering phones in the future.


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  1. Thank you Yeswap. Great information! Although this is dealing with the Sprint network, these ideas create good competition and help drive prices down. It is crazy what you pay here in America compared to other nations!

  2. Ting's refurbished LG Optimus S Android smartphone is only $23 with my Reseller Offer Code: VTIMRK6

  3. Yeswap, what do you think about Ting? DO you think that they will be here a few years from now, and will they raise prices? I think that they offer great competition for Tmobile Value, as they are both discounted family plans with no subsidized phone. THe advantage of ting though is that there is no contract and on the SPrint network, but you still have to pay taxes. However, TIng doesn't offer mobile to mobile or nights and weekends?

    1. Ting is backed by Tucows which has been around since 1994 and is a major internet domain registrar. They seem serious about Ting. I have no idea if they will raise prices in the future.

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