Warren, N.J. — Virgin Mobile USA’s first prepaid wireless-broadband service, scheduled for a late-June launch exclusively though Best Buy Mobile, will be the first pay-as-you-go prepaid broadband service from a major wireless service provider.
Only smaller prepaid mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) such as Ready Wireless of Hiawatha, Iowa,
let users pay for 3G broadband service on a pay-as-you-go basis, while carriers such as Cricket, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile require prepaid broadband subscribers to pay for a month’s worth of service at a time, said MVNO Virgin.
By letting consumers pay for service only when they need it rather than pay for a month’s worth of service at a time, Virgin’s service will appeal to consumers who need wireless Internet access only a few times per month, said Matt Berberian, Virgin’s customer-experience director. Potential users include business travelers who will be able to access the Internet at lower rates than they could through hotel broadband services or through airport Wi-Fi services, he said. Other users include vacationers who need service only for a week, especially at vacation homes that lack broadband access. “It’s not for the power user,” he said. The service also makes sense for people who live in areas without wired-broadband access, Berberian added.
The service, which requires no contract or credit check, also makes sense for people tired of searching for Wi-Fi hot spots when they’re on the move, added Bob Stohrer, chief marketing officer of Virgin Mobile USA.
Virgin’s Broadband2Go service, which operates on Sprint’s EV-DO Rev. A network, will be accessible through Novatel’s $149 Ovation USB wireless-data modem, which will be available only in Best Buy Mobile stores through the end of the year, said Berberian. Neither the modem nor service will be available on Virgin’s Web site during that time. Distribution will expand after the exclusivity period is up.
For Best Buy, Broadband2Go will be the chain’s first prepaid-broadband service, Berberian said. Best Buy Mobile operates around 1,000 outlets and promises to add the service to airport kiosks later this summer. The retailer will include the modem and service in its circulars in late June and July, he said.
The service is available to consumers in four packages, each offering 100MB, 250MB, 600MB and 1GB of data at $10, $20, $40 and $60, respectively. The $10 data package must be used within 10 days, but the other packages are good for up to 30 days. Consumers pay for the service online via credit or debit card, or they can go to Best Buy Mobile outlets to pay for Top Up cards.
Because consumers don’t readily equate the amount of time they spend on the Internet with the amount of data they use, Virgin’s Web site will make the equation for them. An hour of Web browsing will use about 20MB, while a minute of video streaming will use about 4MB. One hundred emails without attachments will consume about 1MB of data, Virgin said.
So customers don’t lose access unexpectedly, Virgin offers a real-time usage meter that lets users monitor and check remaining megabytes of use. When consumers go online, their browser connects first to a personal portal that displays the meter.
A pay-as-you-go broadband service offered by MVNO Ready Wireless is available on the company’s Web site.