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Sprint Plans to Relaunch a More Competitive Virgin Mobile This Year

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At Tuesday's Investor Conference Call (pdf transcript), Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure spoke briefly about Sprint's embattled prepaid brands, which lost 264.000 customers last quarter. He blamed the losses on stiffer competition and fewer prepaid promotions from Sprint than usual. He said that Sprint's Boost Mobile prepaid brand actually increased its subscriber count both last quarter and last fiscal year, which ended March 31. That means that Sprint's prepaid loses came from its Virgin Mobile, Sprint Prepaid and Assurance Wireless brands.

It's hardly surprising that Virgin Mobile and Sprint Prepaid are losing customers. Both brand's plans are overpriced compared with Boost and the industry in general. Virgin and Sprint Prepaid also frustrate current and potential users with very limited phone selections and a policy of not allowing users to activate Sprint phones they might already own.

Virgin Mobile was once a value leader in the prepaid industry, I don't understand why Sprint allowed it to become so un-competitive. That might change soon, Claure said Sprint is "...in the process of relaunching our Virgin brand this year with a much stronger value proposition".

As for Sprint Prepaid, it looks like it might be on its way out. Fierce Wireless and Wave7 Research are reporting that Sprint Prepaid phones have disappeared from Target and Best Buy Stores. All but three of Sprint Prepaid's 10 smartphones are sold out on the Sprint Prepaid website and the three that are left are deeply discounted. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sprint Prepaid disappear this year.

Assurance, Sprint's Lifeline brand,  is definitely disappearing. Sprint has reached an agreement with Kroger Stores' i-wireless to merge Assurance with i-wireless' Access Wireless Lifeline brand. Sprint would own 70% of the combined company which would operate on the Sprint network. The combine will operate under the i-wireless name will be run by i-wireless management. Current Assurance employees would become i-wireless employees. Claure said that shedding Assurance would allow Sprint to "focus on our core prepaid brands".

Expect to see Boost and Virgin offering more refurnished iPhones and Samsung Galaxy devices soon. According to Claure, Sprint is going to be getting "millions and millions" of used devices from its iPhone Forever and Galaxy Forever programs. Those programs let postpaid customers trade their old phones for Apple or Samsung's latest every year for an additional monthly payment of between $22 and $30.50. Claure said these phones will be refurbished by Apple and Samsung and resold to Sprint's prepaid customers.

Sources: Sprint, Fierce Wireless


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  1. If they do dismantle SPP like they did As You Go, then they should release the ESNs of those devices to the retail pool of Sprint Post-Paid devices allowing them to activate NIB/Used on Sprint MVNOs!
    The MVNOs should demand this!

  2. I wonder what will be the fate of VM's Data Sharing Done Right? Sprint leased, not bought, the Tech from Its On. I wonder how long that contract is and if Its On loses that lease agreement, will they reestablish Zact Mobile?

  3. Longtime VM user here (Optimus V, Ring, Victory, Volt). Good coverage in my area, reasonable amount of data for my needs. Some phones are rootable for customization & hotspot use. Curious to see what "stronger value proposition" will mean for users like me.

  4. It's about time, sprint is finally realizing it only needs 2 prepaid brands. If they can get virgin back to were it use to be in the past, they could be number 1 again in the prepaid game.

  5. Please, just put this brand out of its misery.

  6. Virgin's biggest problem is that Sprint's prepaid network only offers reliable data speeds within their limited native 4G coverage area.

    Unless they can offer 5GB for $10/mo, free postpaid roaming/shortcodes, and/or current flagships for $100 each, I just can't see them prying people away from the Big 3.

    The thing is, the amount of loss leaders they'd need to turn things around might actually put them out of business sooner.

    It really seems like they're damned either way, both by executive mismanagement (from long before the new guard stepped up) and their misfortune of being saddled with CDMA in an increasingly GSM nation.

    1. None of this makes any sense. 1. The Sprint network now covers 280M+ people with LTE now. 2. Ridiculous. They just need to be more competitive. 3. IBID. 4. Both CDMA and GSM are dying, being replaced with LTE.

    2. GSM nation?! Verizon

    3. Sprint's real coverage is far from universal.

      I've had LTE drop down to snail-speed 3G a number of times in populated areas.

      Being more competetive won't solve that problem.

      As for Verizon's success and existing standards dying, the fact remains that all 4 carriers utilize sim cards for their LTE a la GSM.

      In reality, rather than staying the course, Sprint and Verizon will continue moving towards "GSM" standards until the only apparent difference between them and AT&T/T-mobile will be their regressive whitelistng of devices.

  7. They will half success when they harsh BYOD policy.

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