Virgin Mobile USA Is Shutting Down: Subscribers To Be Transferred To Boost Mobile

Virgin Mobile USA, a flanker brand owned by Sprint, is shutting down. Today, reports surfaced from many Virgin Mobile customers who received texts that started like this:

Virgin Mobile USA is discontinuing and your account will auto-transfer to Boost Mobile.

Boost Mobile is another flanker brand owned by Sprint, and it should offer almost all customers service that is quite similar to the service Virgin Mobile USA has been offering.

Interestingly, I can’t find a press release from Virgin Mobile about the shutdown. However, the company has published a web page with an FAQ about the upcoming changes. The page illuminates several details about how the automated transfer of subscribers from Virgin to Boost will be handled:

  • Subscribers will keep their existing phone numbers.
  • Subscribers should be able to keep their current phones.
  • The transfers will begin in February.
  • Boost Mobile will not accept Paypal. Subscribers that paid for Virgin service with PayPal will need to choose a new payment method.
  • Payment dates will usually be unaffected by the transfer from Virgin to Boost.
  • Subscribers automatically paying for Virgin service via credit card or debit card will have their payment methods transferred automatically.
  • Device insurance purchased from Virgin should carry over to Boost.
  • Devices using Virgin’s Mobile Broadband service will not automatically be transferred to Boost. Subscribers using these devices will need to find new carriers.[1]

Virgin Mobile USA suggests that most subscribers will receive pricing with Boost that is the same or better than existing pricing with Virgin:

In most instances, your existing account will be transferred to Boost Mobile with your device, and a comparable or better Boost Mobile service plan at no extra cost to you… In fact, since Boost Mobile accounts have taxes and fees included, customers will end up paying less than you do now on similar plans.

While Virgin Mobile USA is suggesting customers will not face increased prices, I suggest that subscribers pay attention to any changes in their bills and plans over time. While I expect most subscribers will not be affected adversely in the short-term, it doesn’t look like Boost has committed not to raising prices or forcing plan changes in the future. I’d be especially vigilant if you currently have a grandfathered plan that Virgin no longer offers to new customers.

In most cases, I think Virgin subscribers should anticipate a smooth transition to Boost. Still, the transition may present a good moment for subscribers to consider other options on the market. Mint Mobile, a relatively new, low-cost carrier, may offer many people better coverage and lower prices than Virgin or Boost.

Why is Virgin Mobile USA shutting down?

On the FAQ page about Virgin’s shut down, one of the questions listed is: “I have been a Virgin Mobile customer for a long time, why is my account being transferred to Boost Mobile?” Virgin responds to the question with a non-answer:

We appreciate your loyalty. To ensure that we offer the best service to our customers, we regularly examine our plans. At this time a decision to discontinue the Virgin Mobile USA service has been made. As we are committed to providing you with great service, we will transfer your account to our sister brand Boost Mobile.

While I’m unsure exactly what’s going on, I expect there’s an effort underway to consolidate Sprint’s flanker brands in advance of news about whether a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile will go through.

Boost’s “Super Reliable, Super Fast” Network

Boost Mobile is running a new commercial that features Pitbull and pitches the company’s low prices. Towards the end of the ad, a narrator says that Boost has a “super fast, super reliable network.” The narration is accompanied by this image:



In most commercials that involve carriers making claims about service quality, carriers will use fine print to cite research that backs up their claims. The Boost ad doesn’t include a citation; perhaps that’s because Boost’s claim doesn’t have much substance. “Super fast, super reliable” is super vague. Boost’s service probably is super fast compared to wireless service from 15 years ago. On the other hand, Boost’s service is not super fast compared to most services currently offered by other U.S. carriers.

Boost runs over Sprint’s network. There are a lot of different companies that evaluate network performance, and Sprint tends to do poorly relative to its competitors in the rigorous evaluations. Sprint had the lowest speeds among all four major networks in both RootMetrics’ and Opensignal’s most recent national assessments.

Boost’s claim looks even sillier in light of the fact that its subscribers tend to have low priority data access on Sprint’s network. When Sprint’s network is congested, Boost Mobile’s subscribers will tend to experience slower data speeds than those who subscribe directly to Sprint’s service.

A misleading image accompanies Boost’s misleading claims about quality. The image looks like a coverage map showing extensive coverage, but a disclaimer states: Coverage not available everywhere. Not a depiction of actual coverage.

Here’s the full commercial: