We lost the great American Airlines airline a few years ago, and the virtual cellular network named after Sir Richard Branson may soon be on its way. Sprint announced today that it will be closing Virgin Mobile USA starting February 2, moving existing users to Boost Mobile instead.
Apparently, the brand will go back to its original owner, Virgin Group, which is trying to decide if it wants to relaunch Virgin Mobile in the United States.
Here's how Virgin Mobile Representative explained it:
As part of the procurement process set up by Justice Department for the integration of Sprint and T-Mobile, Sprint is moving its prepaid mobile brands to Dish. To facilitate this move, Vir Virgin Group has agreed with Sprint to transfer the existing Virgin Mobile to the American customers in the dish before the sale. After the transfer, Virgin will roll back the Virgin Mobile brand to the United States. We are delighted that after the uncertainty caused by the lengthy merger discussions, we once again have control of our precious brand and will now work on launching innovative mobile offer options in the United States.
This does not mean, however, that Virgin is weighing its options: A speakeron tells us that the company will "spend some time assessing the US mobile market opportunity and be interested in potential partnerships." Will start a dialogue with the parties. "
And by that time, all existing customers of Virgin Mobile USA will be gone.
The FAQ on Virgin Mobile USA's website does not specify a specific date for the shutdown to be completed, but also states that they will be able to receive a headstart on the occasion of a transfer to Boost if they so desire. You may not notice much difference. A Sprint spokesperson told Fair Wireless that customers will be able to have the same phone and pay the same price, and you will technically still be on the same Spirits network.
That said, you may need to change the way you pay for Boost Mobile, as the company says it will not support PayPal accounts or 45/90 day top ups.
This is by no means the end of Virgin Mobile. While its Australian counterpart (under Optics) is also currently undergoing stages, it is still a cellular brand in the home country of Sir Richard Branson. But these days, Branson has set his sights higher than cellular.
We would not be surprised if the next "Virgin Mobile USA" gives just a little bit of dignity to an existing MNVO, as well as how Boost is slapping on Virgin, and how both Boost and Virgin have run. Basically only sprints.
UPDATE, January 8 at 3:22 pm ET: The Virgin Group will withdraw the rights to Virgin Mobile USA, and is deciding if it wants to potentially launch it again.