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Virgin Mobile Launches Wireless Phone Service In U.S.

Virgin Mobile USA launched its prepaid, youth-oriented wireless-phone service on June 23 in Sacramento, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio, and will go nationwide by the end of July, when it said its customized Kyocera-made phones will be available in most major metropolitan areas.

By the end of August, the company’s “grab-and-go” phones will be available in 3,000 retail outlets, including Best Buy, Circuit City, a campus bookstore chain, Media Play, Sam Goody, Target and Virgin Megastores. Prepaid cards will be available in another 8,000 outlets, including Circle K and 7-Eleven convenience stores and Winn-Dixie supermarkets. Virgin will also sell direct through a toll-free number and its Web site,

Virgin is using Sprint PCS’s network to deliver its service, described by CEO Dan Schulman as targeted exclusively to the under-30 crowd to bolster the wireless industry’s low penetration rates among U.S. youth. In the United States, the penetration rate for 13- to 24-year-olds is 25 percent, but in Europe it ranges from 60 percent to 85 percent.