SAN FRANCISCO—Virgin Mobile just completed its acquisition of Helio but already has started integrating the two MVNOs under the marketing banner “Plan to Have It All.”
Virgin announced a new subscriber plan and phone at CTIA Wireless I.T. and Entertainment and Chief Marketing Officer Bob Stohrer said the MVNO will continue with a series of further integrations. When the integration is completed next year, he said, the Helio brand likely will go away although it may continue to be used to designate mid-and-high level services or products.
Helio has started offering an $80 A La Carte plan that allows unlimited minutes rather than the former 1,500-minute limit. The plan mirrors Virgin Mobile’s Totally Unlimited prepaid voice plan at $79.99.
Virgin Mobile also has come out with its first EV-DO phone, called the Shuttle, which will use Helio’s Buddy Beacon friend-finder service. Helio has always had EV-DO handsets. The $99 Shuttle is made by UTStarcom.
Helio has about 170,000 postpaid subscribers, while Virgin Mobile has 5 million prepaid customers.
Stohrer said the new calling plan and phone are being offered so quickly after the Aug. 22 merger was completed because the company wanted to show subscribers on both networks it was going to deliver more value under the merger.
Virgin Mobile eventually wants to be able to offer the ability for subscribers to move between plans and services on one handset, with one website and one customer care center, Stohrer said. The next step is an integrated website and customer care, which he said should be completed in the next few months. Total integration will come in 2009.
Over time, he said, Helio will become an “ingredient” brand that likely will have a place within Virgin’s products and services.