With T-Mobile getting rid of service agreements and adopting a financing model not unlike an auto lease with its Simple Choice program, Virgin Mobile is giving T-Mobile customers an incentive to switch to the prepaid brand, however it does require a bit of work. The offer requires the purchase of a new device, as Virgin Mobile devices are CDMA powered and some also include either WiMax or LTE support.
On top of that requirement, the port-in must be completed by the end of next month on May 31st and a service payment made to earn the $100 service credit within 30 days of the first payment, which many will realistically think twice about doing, especially as the new Simple Choice plans are equal to the current $55 Beyond Talk plan outside of data allotment. Virgin Mobile is essentially pitching the $5 discount over T-Mobile’s $60 Simple Choice plan over two years as the main advantage when paired with its version of the Samsung Galaxy S II, which is currently on sale for $299.99 and features WiMax support, where coverage is available.
However, in a direct comparison, the two devices and offerings are nearly equal, with the only exceptions being that T-Mobile includes 500MB of tethering/hotspot access in the $60 Simple Choice plan, while such access requires an additional $15 monthly charge for an additional gigabyte of data per month at 3.5GB, making the Virgin Mobile offering less compelling when trying to compare both of them on equal terms.
Virgin Mobile is also being deliberately obtuse with its description of throttling to 3G speeds after hitting the monthly cap, as outside of coverage areas where the Network Vision overhaul has been completed, slower than EV-DO speeds are the norm if WiMax isn’t available as a fallback due to network congestion. All things considered, Virgin Mobile is punching well above its weight and failing to make a compelling case against T-Mobile, even with the $100 credit and really only makes sense in extreme cases, such as moving from T-Mobile prepaid due to a lack of coverage or general dissatisfaction.
Even the savings demonstrated in the above chart show that the difference comes down to only $120 with the credit and lower promotional cost of the Galaxy S II factored in over 2 years, while the $334 “savings” (of which $100 is in the form of the account credit) is meant to be a distraction from the actual cost. T-Mobile is going as far as publicly dismissing this offer and Virgin Mobile in the media as nothing to worry about while it continues to promote the merits of its own Simple Choice offering along with its coverage expansion and sees no need to respond competitively.
Whether Virgin’s offer really is compelling to those looking to port from T-Mobile to another carrier remains to be seen, as both share nearly equivalent coverage areas dominated by heavy urban coverage at the expense of less suburban and interstate coverage while they work to shore up coverage with additional capacity, Sprint by reconfiguring its network to eliminate Nextel iDEN service, T-Mobile by migrating 3G access to 1900MHz and dropping GSM while adding LTE on its sizable AWS spectrum holdings.
Ultimately, the choice to port in from T-Mobile may be influenced by factors other than total pricing after 2 years and as always, comes down to coverage needs and a desire to pay $5 less per month, which depends on the person.