In the middle of February, Mango Mobile released an annual wireless plan on the T-Mobile network that cost just $25/month for unlimited everything with 50GB of high-speed data and 20GB of mobile hotspot. Shortly thereafter, Black Wireless began offering the same plan but for $16.67/month with the requirement that 6 months of service had to be paid for in advance. Mango Mobile then matched that offer. When the plans were launched BestMVNO deemed them to be the best deal in wireless.
Mango Mobile and Black Wireless have generally sold similar plans over the years with Black Wireless primarily operating on the AT&T network and Mango Mobile on the T-Mobile network. When Black Wireless began offering that great deal on the T-Mobile network it was the first time to my knowledge that they ever offered a plan on that network. Mango Mobile offered the plan for about two weeks, while Black Wireless sold it for a while longer.
Black Wireless Loses T-Mobile Based Plan
Unfortunately, over this past weekend news began to break in a couple of online Reddit threads that subscribers were having their plans canceled. Subscribers began to receive a text message from Black Wireless that read:
"Hello, this is Black Wireless. Unfortunately, we have forfeited our contract with our vendor for T-Mobile services due to business reasons. Your service will stop by April the 10th, thus we contacted you to see whether you wish to continue the service with us and in this case we will add a web credit on your online Black Wireless account so you can use the credit to purchase a new plan with a SIM. Once you get the SIM you can port in your number on it. please check our plans at our website : https://www.blackwireless.com/plans. The other option is to port out to another service and get refunded. Once you decide, Please reply back with your decision, or call customer service at 1-844-252-2532."
That text message was certainly surprising, confusing and upsetting to those who received it. Customers were effectively being given one week to either change to another and less desirable Black Wireless plan or to find another provider altogether. The same plan cancellation also seems to have occurred with Mango Mobile.
Both Black Wireless and Mango Mobile are owned by Red Pocket Mobile. Red Pocket Mobile also owns the FreedomPop and Unreal Mobile brands. I reached out to Red Pocket Mobile over the weekend and several times since to try and get an explanation as to why this happened. Unfortunately, not all of my questions have been answered at this time, and those that have been may not have been answered accurately. So I am left with a puzzle to try and piece back together to try and determine what has happened.
Why Was The Promo Plan Canceled?
Red Pocket Mobile has stressed to me repeatedly that no contracts with T-Mobile have been lost as the text message sent by Black Wireless seemed to indicate. Representatives also stated that the text message was sent out to a small number of subscribers in error. Two company spokespersons also said that the underlying issue with the cancellations is that the plans were essentially oversold. Black Wireless accepted additional orders after they had sold out of the plan. But the information contained in those Reddit forms suggests far different reasons for the cancellations.
One Reddit forum member told me they had received a text message after they first activated their plan with Black Wireless. The member shared a screenshot of that message in the forum. It read:
"Welcome to T-Mobile for business. You have 24/7 support. See why business is better with The Un-carrier: t-mo.co/2kdXWbj"
That text message indicates to me that Black Wireless was attempting to resell T-Mobile business plans to consumers. And they were likely unauthorized to do so. That's a big no-no and can certainly lead to a loss of contract for the MVNO or reseller attempting to sell such services. It could even lead to the provider having to shut down. Now I do not have a way to verify the validity of the screenshot, but looking at the other evidence and puzzle pieces I believe it is legitimate. I did ask for Red Pocket Mobile to comment on it, but have yet to hear a response.
So I do believe Black Wireless was attempting to resell what are essentially T-Mobile business plans. And I believe that Black Wireless was not offering the plans through a contract that it had with T-Mobile. I think that belief is further supported by comments made in the forum by a Black Wireless representative.
A representative named Tony from Black Wireless jumped into a forum to attempt to provide a more thorough explanation as to what happened. Per the Reddit forum, the Black Wireless representative stated:
".....We did not lose any contract, but merely the plan we had with the underlying carrier due to unforeseen circumstances. We could only do our best at this point to assist our customers in order to make sure they get the service they require or if desired a refund. In this MVNO environment you must understand there are certain criteria we must adhere to and terms we cannot state in order to stay within our business requirements and guidelines with the underlying carrier and contracts/agreements. I hope you understand and this clears up this matter. All the best and please stay safe."
Judging by what the Black Wireless rep Tony had to say, and what Red Pocket has told me, it seems the two entities, for reasons unknown, aren't entirely on the same page. But Tony's explanation does certainly lend credence to the idea that Black Wireless and Mango Mobile had essentially been reselling T-Mobile business plans, and they were unauthorized to do so. Otherwise, it doesn't seem to make much sense for T-Mobile to just pull the rug on them and the plan.
If you have been impacted by this situation, I'd like to know more about it in the comments below. And if you are in need of a new T-Mobile based provider because if it, you may want to check out this list of T-Mobile MVNOs or list of other multi-month provider plans.