Less than a week after it was announced that Leap Wireless’ Cricket will be the first mobile operator in the US to offer pre-paid plans for the Apple iPhone, reports are surfacing that the second prepaid iPhone operator is going to be announced soon, with the new plan available as early as next month. The carrier? Sprint Nextel’s Virgin Mobile USA.
According to anonymous sources quoted by MarketWatch, an announcement is expected this week that the iPhone will be added as an offering on its already-extant pay-as-you-go Virgin Mobile brand as of July 1. Pricing has not been confirmed as yet, and it’s also said to be uncertain whether iPhones will also be available on Sprint Mobile’s other pre-paid service, Boost Mobile.
(Virgin Mobile USA currently offers pre-paid plans that start at $35 per month with unlimited data, although the data speed is throttled after 2.5 GB each month. That compares with Leap’s plans of $55 per month for unlimited talk, text and data.)
The deal, if true, makes some sense. Not only is the iPhone relatively new to Sprint – it only started offering the device in October of last year – but pre-paid plans have been the only growth area for Sprint in recent times, as contract customers have left the carrier for other companies; MarketWatch notes that Sprint lost 192,000 contract customers in Q1 2012, but gained 489,000 pre-paid customers. Additionally, the addition of a pre-paid deal is likely to help Sprint reach its commitment of selling $15.5 billion of iPhones in the four years following its agreement with Apple (Leap’s contract with Apple commits to just $900 million in three years, by comparison).
Apple refused to comment on the story.