Sprint’s Virgin Mobile Launches Shared-Data Plans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Kansas City Star/TNS) -

Sprint Corp. again has embraced simplicity with changes to its Virgin Mobile pre-paid phone service offered through Wal-Mart stores.

On Saturday, Virgin began offering shared-data plans with no service contract through Wal-Mart. The plan comes with unlimited voice minutes and texts and offers various data packages at different prices.

Two lines sharing 4 gigabytes of data cost $65 a month; three lines sharing 8 gigabytes of data cost $90; and four lines sharing 12 gigabytes of data cost $115 a month.

Pre-paid customers, including Virgin customers who use the Sprint network, traditionally buy wireless service month-to-month by paying in advance. Sprint said its offering is the first shared-data plan for pre-paid consumers without a contract.

Jayne Wallace, a Sprint spokeswoman, said the offer was an evolved version of the Virgin Mobile Custom plan offered through Wal-Mart beginning last July. It allowed a family to buy and share pools of minutes, texts and data.

Custom customers also easily could add or reduce how much of each feature they were buying during the month. Reductions in minutes, texts or data gave them credit on their next month’s bill. Increases had to be paid for immediately with an established credit card on the account.

Wallace said technically the custom plan involved sharing data. The distinction is that data is the only part of the new offering that the lines share, as voice minutes and text are unlimited for all lines on the account.

Virgin is moving to the new offering because the custom plan proved too complex for customers. Wallace said they preferred knowing how much they’d spend and what service they’d receive.

Complexity similarly spelled the end of Sprint’s Framily plan last summer, just days into the term of CEO Marcelo Claure. Claure succeeded long-time CEO Dan Hesse on Aug. 11 and quickly pulled the plug on Framily, which gave customers discounts for bringing new customers to Sprint.

Sprint switched to a shared-data family plan for its most valuable customers, referred to in the industry as post-paid subscribers because they tend to be higher credit risks and traditionally bought service through two-year contracts.