Updated August 16, 2008Prepaid cell phones leader Virgin Mobile will make cell phone history beginning on July 1, 2008 when it launches the industry’s lowest-priced “everything” cell phone service plan. For $79.99 a month with no contract or credit card required, you can talk as long as you want.
Now this is exactly the definition of healthy competition. In order for a business to make more money, sometimes it has to sell itself for less and undercut its competitors. While this can cause price wars between businesses, the consumer ultimately benefits with lower prices.
“‘Totally Unlimited’ for $79.99 per month is simply a better value than post-paid plans [can] offer,” said Virgin Mobile USA chief marketing officer Bob Stohrer in a June 24, 2008 press statement. “It is simply not necessary to sign a two-year contract to get real worth with your wireless plan.”
Stohrer added: “This offer surpasses the regional carriers’ unlimited calling plans. [Plus] most add on roaming charges that can cost customers as much as 79 cents per minute. With ‘Totally Unlimited,’ Virgin Mobile USA is providing consumers [with] unlimited talk without all the limitations.”
The new unlimited-minute plan is a direct undercutting attack on the other cellular big boys. Virgin Mobile’s rivals have currently set an industry-standard price of $99.99 for their own “everything” plans.
What’s perhaps most interesting is that Virgin Mobile, which itself is a reseller of Sprint mobile service, is even undercutting Sprint.
Sprint’s version of the all-you-can-eat plan, which is called “Simply Everything,” runs $99.99 a month for unlimited voice minutes, texting, data usage, GPS and Sprint TV. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are currently on board as well with similar $99.99 offers.
Sprint has another plan for $89.99 with unlimited talking and texting only. In going the $79.99 route for unlimited minutes, Virgin Mobile bests its own $99.99 plan, which came with 1,000 minutes and unlimited calling on nights and weekends only.
Uh Oh: Two Catches
Sound too good to be true? Yes, there are two catches with Virgin Mobile’s new “Totally Unlimited” plan. While you’re afforded the extra benefit of not having to bind yourself to a contract (whereas you do with comparable “unlimited” plans at Virgin Mobile’s rivals), you may notice the first missing element in the fine print: texting.
Indeed, texting isn’t included in Virgin Mobile’s new “Totally Unlimited” plan. Unlimited texting costs an extra $10 a month. That’s a bit tricky on Virgin Mobile’s part. The move can potentially either irk consumers immediately or (even worse) anger them later when they learn texting wasn’t included.
Shouldn’t “Totally Unlimited” actually be totally unlimited? Since texting is so pervasive and so in demand from consumers, it’s more accurate to think of Virgin Mobile’s “Totally Unlimited” plan as $89.99 a month with texting bolted on. But wait: There’s a second catch. Data usage also isn’t included. Ouch.
That’ll run you another $4.99 a month for 30 days of data access and only 5 megabytes of use. If you spill over, it’ll be more. With that amount of data usage, now we’re talking $94.98 a month for Virgin Mobile’s new plan. As a bonus, though, you have no activation or roaming fees and you can pay with cash, credit or your debit card.
When paying by cash, the “Totally Unlimited” plan can be purchased using Virgin Mobile’s “Top-Up” cards. Taxes are extra.
Initial information on “Totally Unlimited” – no more than what’s already contained in this article – can be found at Virgin Mobile’s Web site at this link. That page is designed to be updated in the future and consumers who submit their e-mail address now to keep “totally posted” will be notified of additional program details.
All in all, the main perk of Virgin Mobile’s “Totally Unlimited” plan is its simplicity and its all-you-can-talk affordability with no contract. On the flip side, they’ve made other critical elements – namely texting and data usage – entirely à la carte. To be fair, Virgin Mobile should more accurately brand “Totally Unlimited” as “Totally Unlimited Voice”.
Virgin Mobile’s new “Totally Unlimited” plan for $79.99 a month joins the cell phone carrier’s arsenal of other compelling, pay-as-you-go plans. An analysis of such prepaid plans as compared to various rivals can be found here.
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