Virgin Mobile is a wireless communications brand used by eight independent brand-licensees worldwide. Virgin Mobile branded wireless communications services are available in Australia, Colombia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Chile, Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, South Africa, Mexico, and the United States. Virgin Mobile branded services used to be offered in Singapore, India and Qatar.
Each Virgin Mobile branded entity acts independently from the others, thus the handsets, service plans and network radio interfaces vary from country to country. In a given country, the Virgin Mobile wireless entity is typically a partnership between Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and an existing mobile network operator or mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).
Virgin Mobile Australia (VMA) is a telecommunications company based in Sydney, Australia. They sell through over 73 retail outlets, including flagship stores in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as via telesales and online.
In Australia, Virgin Mobile operates on the Optus network.
On 30 May 2018, Optus announced that they would be phasing out the Virgin Mobile brand and would transfer Australian Virgin Mobile customers over to Optus. They said the phase out would take them roughly two years. On 15 June 2018, Virgin stopped selling all postpaid and prepaid plans to customers.
Virgin Mobile Canada experienced substantial growth in 2008, launching approximately 60 ‘Virgin Mini Stores’ (VMS) across the country. VMS are kiosks usually located in shopping malls that especially target the 18- to 35-year-old demographic. For four years running, Virgin Mobile Canada has received J.D. Power and Associates’ annual award for Highest Customer Satisfaction for Prepaid Wireless. Post-paid plans were introduced to Virgin Canada in February 2008.
Bell Mobility acquired Virgin Mobile Canada in May 2009 for CAN$142 million. Some of its stores in Ontario and Quebec are operated by the largest Bell franchise, Cellcom Communications. In early 2010, Virgin Mobile Canada launched the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4 post-paid service in Virgin Mobile Retail Stores and online, all around Canada. Virgin Mobile became the fifth brand offering the iPhone in Canada, after Fido, Rogers Wireless, Telus, and Bell Mobility.
In conjunction with the launch of the third-generation iPad, Bell Mobility will allow Virgin Mobile Canada customers to access its LTE network.
Virgin Mobile Poland is a mobile phone service provider operating in Poland. The company launched in 2012. Being a virtual operator, Virgin Mobile does not maintain its own network, and instead has contracts to use the existing network of Play and T-Mobile. It is the only mobile phone service provider to offer free GSM voice calls, plus Internet (free Internet is also offered by Aero2).
Virgin Mobile South Africa (VMSA) is a joint-venture between Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Cell C. Virgin Mobile South Africa launched in 2006. In February 2011 it was reported that Cell C’s 50% stake in Virgin Mobile is to be sold to Virgin Group of the UK and Calico Investments of the Bahamas.
Virgin Mobile KSA is a telecommunication company operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It offers both pre-paid and post-paid plans through over 20,000 sale points in the country. Its offering targets mainly younger population, with flexible price plans and bundles.
Virgin Mobile UK is a mobile phone service provider operating in the United Kingdom. The company was the world’s first Mobile Virtual Network Operator. It launched in 1999 using the coverage of network operator One2One (subsequently renamed T-Mobile UK). Being a virtual operator, Virgin Mobile does not maintain its own network and instead has contracts to use the existing network of EE.
Virgin Mobile was bought by NTL:Telewest on 4 April 2006 before joining the quadplay of Virgin Media services when NTL:Telewest was renamed Virgin Media on 9 February 2007 and adopted a new logo in line with the entire Virgin Media group.
Virgin Mobile Ireland was launched in 2015, at the same time UPC Ireland was rebranded Virgin Media Ireland. Both Virgin Mobile UK and Virgin Mobile Ireland are operated by Virgin Media PLC, a subsidiary of Liberty Global.
Virgin Mobile Russia was launched on 27 November 2017 as mobile virtual network operator under Tele2 Russia network.
Virgin Mobile USA, L.P. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sprint Corporation that provides nationwide, prepaid, wireless voice, messaging and broadband data products and services to customers in the continental United States under the Virgin Mobile, “payLo by Virgin Mobile” and “Assurance Wireless Brought to You by Virgin Mobile” brands. Founded in 2001 as a joint venture between Virgin Group, Singapore Telecommunications Limited and Sprint Corporation, Virgin Mobile USA commenced operations in June, 2002 as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) providing services via the nationwide Sprint 1900 MHz PCS, CDMA, digital network.
Virgin Mobile USA provides services to customers via the Sprint CDMA, EVDO, LTE, and Sprint Spark networks. Virgin Mobile handsets and broadband access devices are available online and at more than 40,000 retail partner locations including Best Buy, RadioShack, Target, Walmart and independent dealers nationwide. Virgin Mobile “top-up” cards are available online and in 150,000 retail locations nationwide.
In 2008, Virgin Mobile USA acquired post-paid services provider Helio, Inc. In 2009, Sprint Nextel Corporation bought out joint venture partners Virgin Group and SingTel, and became the sole owner of Virgin Mobile USA.
Virgin Mobile USA is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, and provides service to approximately 6 million customers.
Virgin Mobile Latin America (VMLA) launched operations in Chile in April 2012, after receiving regulatory approval from Chile’s telecommunications regulator and signing an agreement with Movistar, one of the country’s leading mobile network operators. VMLA announced in June of this year its plan to become Latin America’s leading mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Since then, the company has made significant progress towards its goal of beginning commercial operations in many countries. Chile was its first commercial operation in early 2012. Richard Branson commented: “We are excited to have made such good progress towards launching our first mobile business in Latin America in Chile.”This is an exciting project for Virgin and we believe Virgin Mobile Chile customers will be delighted by the services we will be offering them at launch.” “We are very appreciative of Subtel’s (Chile’s Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones) prompt approval of our application,” said VMLA’s chairman Phil Wallace.
Virgin Mobile won for three consecutive years the ALCO Customer Loyalty award for having the highest Net Promoting Score (NPS) index in the telecommunications industry in Chile. As of January 2016 Virgin Mobile Chile has a net portability balance of 322,560 customers that have transferred their phone numbers from or to other companies. This figure does not include “non-ported” customers that started with a new phone number.
Some notable product offerings include no contract prepaid plans and a variety of payment options, from top up terminals to PayPal.
Colombia was the second South American country that received the Virgin Mobile network. It launched officially plans and services on April 3, 2013, working with Movistar’s electromagnetic frequency. The high rate of active mobile lines in Colombia makes this country a good place to set telecom and networks operations. Virgin Mobile took advantage of the 4G spectrum auction in Colombia in June 2013 to release more data services with the fastest mobile speed in the world.
Operations in Ecuador were rumored to start in 2017, using Movistar’s network. On September 23, 2019, the Ecuadorian government through a twitt from its former Communications Minister (Andres Michelena ), informed about the signature of an agreement that allows Virgin Mobile to start officially its operations in the country. Richard Branson (Virgin Mobile CEO) and Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno met in NY and signed the agreement.
In early 2014, Virgin Mobile Latin America’s site for Virgin Mobile Mexico was launched. Since 10 April 2014, it has been possible to purchase micro, nano and regular sim cards through several points of sale located in shopping malls or over the internet. They have reached an agreement to use Movistar’s network. In April 2014 they only offered basic prepaid service (voice SMS Data) on a pay-as-you-go basis, and were expected to introduce more diverse offers soon. In June 2016 Virgin Mobile Mexico started to offer LTE access using Band 2.
Virgin Mobile Latin America’s next business-venture initiative continues with Virgin Mobile Brazil and Virgin Mobile Peru (in 2015).
Virgin Mobile France was a mobile virtual network operator in France that began as a subsidiary of Virgin Group.
Launched in France on 3 April 2006, Virgin Mobile was the fifth mobile operator on the French market and the first MVNO by number of subscribers, with over 2 million customers. Chaired by Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, Virgin Mobile was commercialized by OMEA TELECOM, a joint venture between Virgin Group and Carphone Warehouse before it was bought in 2015 by the French communication group Numericable-SFR.
Virgin Mobile Qatar was a brand licensing partnership agreement between Virgin Group and Qatar Telecom (as Qtel Group). The new brand was launched 13 May 2010 over the network of Qatar Telecom (Qtel). Virgin claims to be Qatar’s first youth-oriented mobile brand, and offers pre-paid-only, simplified all-day tariff plans (with no distinction between peak and off-peak), with a 180-day airtime validity — which it says is the longest available in the country. Local calls are charged at QAR0.55 (US$0.15) per minute for the first five minutes used in each day, and QAR0.30 per minute after that, whilst mobile internet access costs QAR1 per 1MB. Richard Branson, chairman of UK-based Virgin Group, said: “Virgin Mobile [has] more than 15 million customers around the world … I am proud to have partnered with Qtel to make Virgin Mobile Qatar our first mobile launch in the Middle East.” The service is the eighth Virgin Mobile branded operation in the world, following on from launches in the UK, Australia, the US, Canada, France, South Africa and India. Branson added that Virgin Group is mulling further partnerships with Qtel, which has a group presence in 17 countries.
Virgin Mobile Qatar caused some confusion in the region, with various newspapers referring to the operation as an MVNO. Initially the claim was rejected by Qtel and Qatar’s telecom regulator, ictQatar, the local telecommunications authority reiterating that its only a branding agreement.
However, on 6 June 2010, The Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR), instructed Qtel to close all the Qtel Virgin Mobile-branded services in the State of Qatar. ictQATAR notification stated that all Virgin Mobile-branded SIM cards should be deactivated by 4 August 2010. The decision noted that “Qtel had engaged in anti-competitive conduct and an abuse of [its dominant position]”, and instructed the mobile operator to remove the Virgin Mobile brand from the marketplace.
Virgin Singapore was launched in October 2001 as a joint venture with Singtel. The operations were closed down on 11 October 2002 after failing to attract a significant number of customers.
Failure of the joint venture was attributed to a saturated mobile market and Virgin Mobile’s positioning as a “premium” brand.
On 1 March 2008, Virgin launched the Mobile brand in India through a franchise arrangement with NTT DoCoMo. This was Virgin’s seventh launch globally and its largest. However, on 29 March 2008, the Department of Telecom (DoT) cleared the deal after clarification from Tata Teleservices indicated that Virgin had not entered India as an MVNO.
Tata Teleservices merged the company into its existing Tata DoCoMo service on 27 March 2015.