An iconic wireless brand has quietly announced that it is discontinuing service. Virgin Mobile USA is migrating all of its customers to Boost Mobile. Customer migration will take place in early February. Virgin Mobile subscribers were notified of the upcoming change by way of a text message. Sprint and Virgin Mobile have yet to issue any press releases or publicly comment on the closure, aside from Virgin Mobile setting up a FAQs page about the discontinuation of service. At the time of publishing this article, Virgin Mobile had not even noted on its homepage that it is closing down.
Virgin Mobile USA was founded in 2001 as a joint venture between Sprint and Virgin Group LTD. The company went public in 2007 and IPO'd with a valuation of $412.5 million. Just two years later, Sprint took Virgin Mobile USA private again when it agreed to buy the company for $483 million or about $5.50 per share. At the time of the purchase, Virgin Mobile USA had 5.2 million subscribers.
Traditionally Virgin Mobile targeted urbanites and those with low income and credit. But with the explosion of the MVNO marketplace over the years and the growth of Sprint's other prepaid brand Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile was often neglected as competing brands took over its market share.
Virgin Mobile Fails Time And Time Again At Rebranding
Several times over the last few years Sprint tried desperately to find a new target audience and to revive the brand but failed miserably.
In May of 2016, Sprint's then CEO Marcelo Claure proclaimed that Sprint was "in the process of relaunching our Virgin brand this year with a much stronger value proposition." The relaunch took place a few months later, and the changes made Virgin Mobile's plans more expensive. Virgin Mobile's cheapest plan actually increased from $30/month to $35/month but it did come with substantially more data improving from 500MB to 5GB. A $40 plan with 4GB of data was increased to $45/month with 10GB of data. A $60 plan with 6GB of data was eliminated. While the changes made Virgin Mobile a better value proposition at the time, they weren't groundbreaking and the price increases may have alienated some of their traditional customer base. To top it off, Boost Mobile plans were also improved with the launch of a $45 (with autopay) unlimited LTE data plan making Virgin Mobile's $45 plan virtually dead on arrival. So much for that stronger value proposition and differentiation from other brands.
2017 Failure As An iPhone Only Provider
Just one year later, in 2017 Virgin Mobile rebranded again, but as an iPhone only provider with only one plan priced at $50/month plus taxes and fees for unlimited LTE data. And once again, Virgin Mobile alienated half of its potential customer base and increased prices. New customers did, however, get a heck of a deal. Those who purchased an iPhone from Virgin Mobile were able to get up to one year of service for just $1. However, like Virgin's previous relaunch, the deal being offered was overshadowed by a better deal available directly from Sprint. Customers who brought their own phone to Sprint were able to get a year of service with unlimited LTE data for free. Once again Sprint failed to differentiate Virgin Mobile offers from its own.
Virgin Mobile's tenure as an iPhone only provider was short-lived and a catastrophic failure. Just one year after launching it, Virgin Mobile USA was forced to cut nearly two-thirds of its workforce. The brand was also pulled out of Target and Android phones and new plans were once again made available. The new plans offered were essentially the same plans Virgin launched in 2016.
2019 Exodus From Walmart, Meijer, And Best Buy
Fast forward to 2019 and Virgin Mobile marketing, deals and promotions were non-existent. In fact, in early to mid-2019 the brand was pulled out of both Best Buy and Target. In the fall of 2019, Virgin Mobile was pulled out of Walmart. With the Walmart withdrawal, Virgin Mobile phones were no longer carried by any national retailer.
And now, come February of 2020, the brand will officially be no more.
Virgin Mobile Subscribers Will Keep Their Phones And Numbers When Migrated To Boost Mobile
Those subscribers who are still with Virgin Mobile are going to be transferred over to Boost Mobile. Virgin Mobile's FAQ's state that current subscribers will be transferred over to Boost Mobile and placed on a comparable or better service plan at no extra cost. Subscribers will be able to keep their current phones and their monthly payment dates will be the same. However, those that pay their Virgin Mobile bill through PayPal will have to use a different payment source when migrating over to Boost Mobile. Customers will be required to re-establish payment options using a major credit or debit card. Boost Mobile also does not accept 45/90 day top-up payment options for service payments. Virgin Mobile customers enrolled in a 45/90 day top-up payment option will need to re-establish payment option and re-enroll in a low balance autopay option using a major credit/debit card prior to transitioning to Boost in order to avoid service interruption. Virgin Mobile will notify affected customers how they can go about doing this prior to the migration.