Friday, July 11, 2008

Virgin Mobile Is, Like, Totally Unlimited, Dude

Following in the footsteps of the contract unlimited plans, and joining services such as Page Plus Cellular, Virgin Mobile now has an unlimited plan of their own. Powered by Sprint's network (no roaming due to the difficulty of doing billing etc. on CDMA, among other things) and making use of Virgin Mobile's current lineup, unlimited voice calling is now available for a mere $79.99 a month, though this total may well be without another 10-20% in taxes and fees. At any rate, if you're looking for unlimited voice service and don't mind being limited to a single carrier's network (Sprint's contract plans cap roaming at 800 minutes per month anyway) Virgin Mobile is $20 cheaper than Verizon and AT&T. If you want messaging on top of your minutes, the Virgin Mobile plan weighs in at $10 cheaper than T-Mobile and on par with Sprint's contract plan: $10 more per month than the base rate, or $90 in all. Or you can get 1000 messages of any type for $5 extra per month, better than anything contract providers are offering (AT&T;would give you a stingy 200 messages for that price).

Virgin Mobile's foray into unlimited marks the going mainstream of prepaid unlimited service: most people have seen or heard of Virgin Mobile (versus PowerLink or Page Plus Cellular), the network VMo uses is nationwide and there's no contract to sign. Basically what you give up when choosing Virgin Mobile versus a contract carrier is a very inexpensive or free phone (though several of Virgin Mobile's phones are less expensive than contract carriers' activation fees) and roaming off of Sprint's network. That's it. Virgin Mobile's phones are also significantly cheaper than those of CricKet, MetroPCS, Pocket et al though the diferential is quickly reversed with the higher monthly fee. Also, data access is still limited, though in all honesty pulling $5 worth (5 MB) of data over the current phone lineup (which has no 3G data) isn't all that easy to do.

Whatever way you look at it, the introduction of this unlimited plan is the introduction of more competition into the cellular market, particularly the unlimited part. That's always a good thing.

As a postscript, maybe the introduction of the "Totally Unlimited" plan is a result of Virgin Mobile's buying up the contract-based Sprint-based Helio, which offers high-end phones and a $100-a-month unlimited-everything plan.Or not...just thinking...

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