Thursday, March 4, 2010

Virgin Mobile Ups Data for On-Demand Broadband

Virgin Mobile is keeping its pricing tiers for its pay-when-you-need it broadband service, but bumping up included quantities of data: Virgin Mobile, now part of Sprint Nextel, has a unique 3G service, in which you can pay for limited amounts of data for limited periods of time. No contracts, and no other fees. And the division is upping the amount of data at each tier starting this morning.

Formerly, you could pay $10 to use up 100 MB within 10 days; with a 30-day usage period, you could pay $20 for 250 MB, $40 for 600 MB, and $60 for 1 GB. There are no overage fees because you are prepaying for a specific quantity of service. If you need more, you just buy another chunk.

The revised plan sticks with the $10/100 MB/10 days tier, but ups the data for each 30-day usage option: $20 gets you 300 MB (only a 50 MB increase), $40 gets you 1 GB (up 400 MB), but $60 now covers 5 GB or 400 percent more usage.

Virgin Mobile Ups Data for On-Demand Broadband

The $60 plan is identical in cost and data quantity to the contract-based 3G laptop service provided by AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, but there's no commitment. (T-Mobile also allows you to pay full price for a USB modem and then pay on a month-by-month basis.)

I suspect Virgin bumped up these numbers because as a better deal it encourages more regular purchases without feeding out much more data. I suspect most people paying for 1 GB never reach that total, and that offering 5 GB won't encourage much more consumption relative to the jump in usage.

Just as carriers have all seemed to spawn prepaid, supercheap voice offerings--all fees are collected before usage--I expect we'll see more prepaid 3G, too. Postpaid plans are supposedly billed after the fact, but all the voice and 3G data contracts I know of required a month's advance prepayment of subscription fees, but allow you to run a tab for overages during the month of usage and then pay for those. Hardly postpaid, despite the definition of postpaid.

The plans all require the $100 Broadband2Go USB Device (a Novatel Ovation MC760 with microSD slot). The USB modem works over Sprint Nextel's network at EVDO Rev. A speeds where available, and supports several Windows flavors and Mac OS X 10.3 and later. (Some commenters on Virgin's open-answer FAQ say 10.4 is the minimum supported version.)

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