Virgin Mobile has announced plans to retain and return the Helio brand, as a sub-brand of Virgin Mobile. The two companies announced intentions to merge, following EarthLink’s withdrawl from the Helio venture (a joint project of EarthLink and SK Telecom).
Both Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) operate using the Sprint network. Helio also signed a roaming deal with Verizon Wireless, to have full access to their network when Sprint service was not available.
Virgin Mobile will utilize Helio to target high-tech consumers, an area that Virgin Mobile has struggled to gain traction with. The existing A La Carte plans that Helio offers will be extended, and Helio phones will now be sold at Best Buy retail stores. In addition, Helio services such as Buddy Beacon will be rolled into Virgin Mobile.
To this end, the company announced Shuttle, a Virgin Mobile phone with several Helio features. While offering only a sub-set of the features, and higher prices for data, the Shuttle will be a key mid-range play to sell to customers.
By offering seamless data services between Virgin Mobile and Helio, the company hopes to drive low-end customers towards Helio after they have become acquainted with the carrier. Helio maintains one of the highest data Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) rates in the industry, a key money maker for any MVNO.
Virgin Mobile remains Sprint Nextel’s only company-owned prepaid service on their CDMA network. They are the only national carrier to not offer a first-party prepaid service.