Ultra Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that sells cellular service atop major carriers, has operated largely under the radar. But it’s angling for disruption with The New $19, a dirt-cheap plan that includes international calling, texting, and data in more than 60 countries worldwide.
There’s no catch to speak of. Starting today, $19 a month on Ultra Mobile nets you 100MB of 4G LTE data in the aforementioned 60 countries, $1.25 in international calling credit, and $5 in one-time international roaming credit. The new pricing takes effect in Brazil, India, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Mexico, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and more. Ultra Mobile says The New $19 plan covers almost 4 billion people around the globe.
Coinciding with the launch of The New $19 plan is DataXtra, a plan benefit that provides up to “double” the amount of high-speed data on Ultra Mobile’s unlimited plans. When the 4G LTE data runs out, customers get free-of-charge access to 3G speeds, and gratis international coverage lets them make and receive calls and texts in any one of 135 countries.
DataXtra follows on the rollout of Data My Way, an optional feature that let Ultra Mobile subscribers choose up to three different data speeds in order to extend their 4G LTE data without changing their usage habits.
“DataXtra is really about understanding what our subscribers need and how to best optimize the data available to us,” Chris Furlong, head of product, told Digital Trends. “Every carrier is looking at ways to stretch our data network. DataXtra allows subscribers to listen to music and stream video without getting into an unusable crawlspace — it’s a nice middle ground for data optimization.”
Ultra Mobile’s next frontier is SMS and texting services. Premo, an Ultra Mobile service that provides a virtual phone number to subscribers, crossed 2 million downloads earlier this year and has 800,000 monthly active users. It’s especially popular in the Persian Gulf region, Furlong said, where expatriates use it as an affordable way to keep in touch with loved ones.
“Phone numbers shouldn’t be tied to physical devices,” he added. “When you get a number from a carrier, your phone has to go with you. But with an app like Premo, you’re reachable across multiple devices — you can travel from primary device to table to laptop.”
Furlong pointed to T-Mobile’s Digits service, a benefit that allows subscribers to receive and make calls and texts via smartphones, tablets, computers, and even smartwatches, as an encouraging sign of a burgeoning trend. But he stressed that any sort of universal, intercarrier number platform is years off.
“We’re entering a message period in communications. It’s fractured.”
Ultra Mobile’s grown to more than $100 million in sales over the past three years. It generated more than $118.2 million last year, and was named Ink Magazine’s Fastest Growing Private Company for 2015.