Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ting is looking better -- will allow customers to bring Sprint phones

In a previous post, we described Ting.com, an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), that resells access to the Sprint cellular network at dramatically reduced prices with no contract. My one complaint was that you could not bring your own phone to Ting. You had to buy a new phone from them, and they offered a limited selection.

Well, that restriction is starting to fade away. Ting announced that during the next quarter, they will begin allowing customers to use their own Sprint phones. That means the selection of new phones will increase dramatically and old Sprint phones will be welcome as well. They point out that, "at first", there will be restrictions -- the iPhone, BlackBerry push to talk and a small list of specific handsets won’t be included.

If you check Ting's prices, you will find significant savings over the major cellular companies. Now that you can bring your old Sprint phone or choose from a wide selection of new phones, Ting (and other MVNOs) seems like a terrific deal for those in areas with good Sprint coverage. The deal is even sweeter if you live in an area which is or will soon be covered by Sprint LTE.

I don’t know how Ting does it. Perhaps Sprint’s wholesale price is very low or perhaps Ting is less greedy and more efficient than the major carriers. Somehow, it offers a better retail deal than Sprint or any of the others. Maybe it is just that it charges more rationally than its competitors. Since 2009, U.S. data traffic has exceeded voice traffic and the gap is growing rapidly, but the cell phone companies still gain most of their revenue from voice.

The cellular and cable companies seem to have arrived at a "gentleman's agreement" to reduce what little is left of Internet service competition. The cellular companies are getting out of the land line business and the cable companies are getting out of the mobile business.

Will the MVNO's like Ting succeed in disrupting the mobile market?