Updated August 16, 2008Prepaid cell phones leader Virgin Mobile announced on June 24, 2008 the cell phone industry’s lowest-priced “unlimited” calling plan. “Totally Unlimited” for $79.99 per month isn’t actually totally unlimited, though, if you also want texting and data usage.
This interview between About.com cell phones guide Adam Fendelman and Virgin Mobile delves into why and what went into the no-contract company’s reasoning behind the bold new plan. This interview was conducted via e-mail on June 24, 2008 with Virgin Mobile USA vice president of corporate communications Jayne Wallace.
While some of the answers may feel canned and are certainly navigating a sensitive balance between what a company typically says “safely” at a corporate level, the industry trend for competition in the unlimited calling space says one statement you can take to the bank: more competition means more choice and ultimately a better consumer experience.
Adam Fendelman: What does the “unlimited” cell phone revolution signal about consumers today? What trend might be next?
Virgin Mobile: Unlimited plans tend to appeal to a younger demographic. We know this group is keen to embrace technological trends such as the move toward getting rid of a landline in order to go purely wireless. They want the ability to be accessible at any time.
Unlimited wireless plans allow for flexibility, convenience and connectivity at any time. With one number, they can be reachable every minute of every day. We see this trend of people wanting flexibility and convenience in their wireless options continuing. Unlimited plays well into that because it removes the need to count minutes.
There is also a move to the “instant gratification” that a cell phone allows and the ease of use of having just one phone and one bill to monitor.
Adam Fendelman: Following Feb. 2008 announcements from competing carriers, what’s significant about the timing for Virgin Mobile’s “Totally Unlimited” announcement now?
Virgin Mobile: We’re always looking for ways to improve our offerings. Our ongoing dialogue with our customers indicated that many were looking for unlimited offers.
Our overall goal is to continue to close the gap between the features traditionally offered by post-paid carriers and the benefits of pre-paid service, which include flexibility as well as freedom from restrictions like long-term contracts.
“Totally Unlimited” for $79.99 per month offers a better value than post-paid plans. This is yet another reason not to sign on for a two-year contract.
Adam Fendelman: What thought process went into offering Virgin Mobile’s “Totally Unlimited” plan at this price and structured as it is?
Virgin Mobile: As with any new service or offering that we roll out, we take several different factors into consideration. We talk to our customers and to consumers overall. We also monitor the marketplace to determine if the idea makes sense for the customer, for our business partners (such as national retailers) and for our business.
If it does, then we move forward. We’ve done this in the past with many of our popular offers before they were introduced including “Penny Texting,” “Penny Messaging,” “Unlimited Messaging” and “Roll Forward” options.
Adam Fendelman: If it’s “Totally Unlimited,” why are texting and data usage bolted on as extras?
Virgin Mobile: Our “Totally Unlimited” offer refers to voice, which is one of the cores of both our business and how our customers use their phones.
Unlimited messaging can then be added for just $10 more per month, which is still a greater value than many of the $99.99 post-paid offerings out there (particularly given that when you dig into the details of many of those unlimited plans there are many caveats and extra costs).
Plus, you have to sign a restrictive, long-term contract that comes with the typical hassles and fees.
Adam Fendelman: In being a Sprint reseller and an entirely separate company from Sprint, is there any consideration in how your offerings stack up against Sprint? Do you view yourself as a partner to Sprint or a competitor of Sprint?
Virgin Mobile: Sprint is an important partner with Virgin Mobile USA as well as a shareholder. We have always been able to successfully balance that great relationship with the fact that we also compete in the marketplace.
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