Virgin Mobile Canada
It's Better to Be a Member
|Founded||March 1, 2005|
|Key people||Joseph Ottorino, Managing Director|
|Products||Smartphones, Wireless Plans, Member Benefits Program|
|Parent||Bell Mobility Inc.|
|This article is outdated. (June 2013)|
Virgin Mobile Canada is a provider of postpaid and prepaid wireless voice, text and data communications services throughout Canada. Launched on March 1, 2005 as a joint venture between Virgin Group and BCE, BCE took sole ownership on July 1, 2009 when it closed a deal to purchase the stake it did not already own. Virgin Mobile Canada affectionately refers to all customers as “Members” to differentiate itself from other providers with its unique Member Benefits program, which provides Members with discounts and other one-of-a-kind opportunities in association with popular brands in music, entertainment, fashion, travel , and more.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Pre-launch (2003-2004)
- 1.2 Launch (2005-2007)
- 1.3 Postpaid services introduced (2008)
- 1.4 Acquisition by Bell Mobility, brand re-positioning, HSPA+ and SuperTab (2009-2010)
- 1.5 Member Benefits Launch, Unlimited plans and Galaxy Nexus exclusivity (2010-2011)
- 1.6 SIM-only promotion and LTE (2012)
- 1.7 Tiered plans, two-year agreements and Wireless Code of Conduct (2013-present)
- 2 Networks
- 3 Products
- 4 Services
- 5 Philanthropy
- 6 Retail presence
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The VirginMobile.ca domain name was registered by Virgin Enterprises Limited on July 4, 2003 with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. When accessed, it displayed a domain parking page until June 14, 2004, when it was replaced with an announcement. There were also links to information about the company, related news articles, and career opportunities. Virgin Mobile claimed: "we work like maniacs to bring you Canada’s most awesome mobile phone company."
Virgin Mobile launched in Canada on March 1, 2005 as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) using the Bell Mobility network. At the time, Virgin Mobile was operating solely as a prepaid service. The company's website showcased several feature phones it offered, and advertised itself as a "no catch" mobile operator. Virgin Mobile Canada was the first mobile carrier in Canada to launch without a system access fee. The company’s “no catch” campaign at launch featured cheeky advertisements likening existing Canadian mobile carriers as “the catch”, and Virgin Mobile Canada as the cure to unclear contracts and undesirable hidden fees. Sir Richard Branson helped create excitement at launch by zip-lining from a high-rise building into Yonge-Dundas Square in a superhero costume, and drove a monster truck over three cars symbolizing “The Big Three” mobile carriers in Canada – Rogers, Telus, and Bell. Since its launch, Virgin Mobile has used edgy and controversial advertising, leading to demands for an apology, requests to cease and desist the advertising, and even boycotts. This marketing technique is still used by Virgin Mobile Canada to this day.
Postpaid services introduced (2008)
In February 2008, Virgin Mobile Canada launched postpaid wireless service. To promote and encourage Canadians to consider the new postpaid service, the company released a new slogan, "It's Better to Be a Member". At launch, this was known as 'myPlan', and the company offered a multitude of options, including the ability to set one's own timeframe for unlimited calling, as opposed to the windows generally offered by competing mobile companies. Since then, postpaid plans have become a popular choice for new and existing Members, and plans continue to evolve in the highly competitive telecom market.
Acquisition by Bell Mobility, brand re-positioning, HSPA+ and SuperTab (2009-2010)
On July 1, 2009, Bell Mobility acquired the 50% of Virgin Mobile Canada that it previously did not own for $142 million and entered into a long-term agreement to use the Virgin brand. Following this, Bell greatly reduced its investments into Solo Mobile in order to invest in and improve its new Virgin brand. On December 21, 2009, Virgin Mobile Canada's then-president Robert Blumenthal promised "a very different Virgin Mobile" with "higher-value devices and services" in 2010.
Virgin Mobile officially launched HSPA+ services on February 2, 2010. This was promoted with a “SIM Fashion Show” launch event featuring Victoria's Secret models. The company launched HSPA+ with several phones, including the BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Curve 8530, the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, MiFi and Samsung M330. A Broadband2Go USB mobile broadband modem was also part of the launch lineup. To prepare for the back-to-school season of that year, the Virgin Mobile SuperTab was introduced on August 23 as a response to competition from other providers, especially Koodo Mobile. The SuperTab was only available to postpaid Members, while HSPA+ products and services were unavailable to prepaid Members until around spring in 2011.
Member Benefits Launch, Unlimited plans and Galaxy Nexus exclusivity (2010-2011)
To differentiate itself from other mobile providers, Virgin Mobile Canada launched its Member Benefits program in 2010. This program is available to all Postpaid and Prepaid Members and provides exclusive discounts and VIP experiences with many well-known brands in the fashion, travel, music, and entertainment space. Since launch, the program has grown and offers exclusive offers for its Members.
In response to competition from major mobile brands and new entrants, Virgin Mobile introduced a City Unlimited plan on February 18, 2011. Later that year, in order to imitate Koodo Mobile's pricing, Virgin Mobile reduced Canadian long distance charges, eventually eliminating them altogether. For the same reason, a plan with unlimited Canadian long distance minutes was launched by Virgin, priced identically to Koodo's equivalent offering.
The carrier is notable for being one of Canada's two carriers to exclusively carry the Galaxy Nexus smartphone for the country's Christmas and holiday season of 2011. Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile's parent, also has this exclusivity during that time period. The flagship device from the Google Nexus series is the first in the world to run the Android 4 operating system. On November 29, Virgin Mobile invited its Members to join the Galaxy Nexus Tester Team. Each Member in this team of five will receive a complimentary Galaxy Nexus, but they must tweet about their experiences with the device. The smartphone was launched on December 8, and the five Tester Team members were chosen on the following day. Other Canadian carriers will sell the Galaxy Nexus in 2012.
SIM-only promotion and LTE (2012)
On January 9, 2012, Virgin Mobile Canada launched a limited time promotion where postpaid customers who activated only a SIM card during that month would obtain an ongoing $5/month discount when they subscribed to any talk and text plan. Those with a smartphone plan would receive an ongoing $10/month discount instead. On January 25, 2013, Virgin Mobile Canada introduced Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) which allows Members to bring their own phone, get a Virgin Mobile SIM card, and receive 10% off their monthly rate every month on a 30 Day Term.
In conjunction with the launch of the third-generation iPad, Virgin Mobile Canada customers will be able to access Bell Mobility's LTE network. Many iconic postpaid phones - including the latest releases from Samsung and Apple - are available on the LTE Network. The 4G LTE network provides peak speeds up to 75 Mbps (expected average speeds of 12 – 25 Mbps). Outside 4G LTE coverage areas, our Members fall back to the 4G HSPA+ network.
Tiered plans, two-year agreements and Wireless Code of Conduct (2013-present)
On August 1, 2013, Virgin Mobile Canada discontinued its SuperTab proposition, and introduced a new Silver, Gold, and Platinum Plan proposition where all plans are only available on 30 Day (monthly) terms or 2 Year Agreements. This allows Members to choose a rate plan level to receive a higher or lower subsidy when they activate a new phone with Virgin Mobile. At launch, Silver Plans offered Members a $150 subsidy on their new phone, Gold Plans offered Members a $250 subsidy on their new phone, and Platinum offered a $500 subsidy on their new phone. Since then, the subsidy offering has evolved to offer Members up to $200 off the retail price of their phone on Silver Plans, up to $300 off the retail price of their phone with Gold Plans, and up to $700 off the retail price of their phone with Platinum Plans.
On November 6, 2013, Virgin Mobile became Wireless Code of Conduct compliant before the deadline given to all mobile carriers in Canada by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission(CTRC).
Virgin Mobile offers a wide selection of smartphones available on the CDMA, HSPA+ and LTE network. They can be activated on either a prepaid or a postpaid plan. Virgin Mobile carries iconic phones from the following manufacturers:
Virgin Mobile offers various smartphones using various platforms:
Various services are offered by Virgin Mobile for both prepaid and postpaid customers.
Since its inception, Virgin Mobile Canada offers a prepaid plan that has no monthly fee. Customers paid only for the services they used, such as per-minute billing for local calling or per-message fee for each SMS sent. Virgin Mobile never charged for received messages, and this practice remains effective to this day. Long distance calls to Canada or the United States were charged at double the local airtime rate. The $15 top up voucher expires after 30 days, while the $25 and then $50 are valid for two months. The most popular voucher option for Pay Per Use members is the $100 voucher which is valid for 365 days. Any account that has not been topped up or remains inactive for 120 days will be automatically deactivated and the phone number will be reassigned to new members activating their prepaid cell phones. There are also prepaid monthly plans and add-ons available at Virgin Mobile. The initial pay-per-use rates, however, have drastically increased over time. For example, Virgin Mobile eliminated talk time discounts previously available for customers who talked for more than five minutes in a day. In Q4 2012, Virgin Mobile added a prepaid incentive: for every six months of payments on a plan costing $20/month or more, Virgin Mobile will allow that Member to add unlimited local calling to any one regular number.
Until Q1 2013, Virgin Mobile Canada had two types of postpaid plans: Choice and Combo. The Choice category was low-end and only included talk and text, while Combo was high-end and added mobile Internet access. On January 25, 2013, Virgin Mobile renamed Choice to Silver and Combo to Platinum. A third plan type, Gold, was also added on that day. This category is considered mid-range.
Virgin Mobile changed its focus to postpaid plans since 2008. Virgin Mobile Canada still has a few minor distinctions which make some of its plans unique. For example, Virgin Mobile's plans allowed Members to choose either the caller ID and voicemail calling features or the SMS and MMS messaging features. More recently, Canada-Wide minutes, Voicemail & Caller ID, Unlimited International Text Messaging, and Unlimited Picture and Text Messaging to Canada and the US are built-in to all postpaid plans.
All talk and text plans automatically include pay-per-use data, a flexible mobile broadband add-on imitating Koodo's pricing for its "Data Saver" add-on. Initially branded as Commitment-Free Data, Virgin Mobile was innovative in that it was the first to charge $0 for the add-on. Koodo customers, on the other hand, previously had to pay for their data add-on even if unused for a month. Currently, the Silver rate plan level includes a variety of plans both with either Pay Per use data or built-in data to appeal to different user lifestyles.
Those with a BlackBerry running OS 7.1 or lower, using Virgin Mobile cannot obtain Pay Per Use Data. Instead, Virgin Mobile offers unlimited BBM at no extra charge with certain monthly plans. Customers have the option to charge BlackBerry App World downloads or the BBM Music service directly on their Virgin Mobile bill.
Virgin Mobile also offers standalone mobile Internet for mobile broadband modems and tablet computers. Both prepaid and postpaid customers can subscribe to such services. In Q4 2012, Virgin Mobile Canada started billing a $1 monthly reoccurring charge on any subscribers that wanted to block mobile Internet from their account at the network level. Many phones include a software switch for turning off mobile Internet.
For customers, unlimited mobile Internet was once offered as an option for low-end phones. This is no longer the case, although customers who still have the add-on are grandfathered. Virgin Mobile previously offered unlimited mobile Internet, including tethering, as an add-on for employees. On February 1, 2013, with less than a week's notice, the carrier started capping such add-ons at 5 GB per month. After nearly two weeks of unanimous protest, threats of legal action and formal complaints to the BBB, Labor Relations Board and CRTC from Virgin Mobile employees, the brand quickly backpedalled on its previous announcement. It subsequently put out another announcement that all aforementioned changes would not take effect until the beginning of the March billing cycle for affected accounts and that the previously mentioned 5 GB cap would be increased to 10 GB.
Member Benefits, Events & Sponsorship
Since 2010, Virgin Mobile Canada offers a "Member Benefits " loyalty program to Members. This allows Virgin Mobile Canada Members access exclusive contests, discounts, other one-of-a-kind opportunities. Categories originally included only four pillars: music, entertainment, fashion, travel. However, the program has evolved to include more partnerships that provide value for Members, but fall outside of these categories, such as food offers from Pizza Pizza, and New York Fries. On February 2, 2011, the brand announced a partnership with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The following month, Virgin Mobile partnered with H&M. In June of that same year, Flight Centre began offering exclusive discounts to Virgin Mobile Members. Numerous other partners have been added over time, such as New York Fries, The Body Shop and Zipcar. Cineplex Entertainment, and Porter Airlines were added in May 2012, and while current Cineplex offers are only valid for new Cineplex Scene customers, the cinema chain announced future deals for existing customers as well. In 2013 & 2014, more new partners have come on board, including Banana Republic, Warner Bros. Entertainment, G Adventures, and Dynamite.
Virgin Mobile Canada also sponsors several nationally recognized events & creates unique experiences and opportunities for Members. For example, Virgin Mobile Canada sponsors the Virgin Mobile presents Osheaga Musique Festival et Arts in Montreal, QC , Virgin Mobile Stampede Concert Series at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, AB, and Virgin Mobile presents Squamish Valley Music Festival in Squamish Valley, BC. Virgin Mobile offers Members the opportunity to enter contests on the Member Benefits webpage to win VIP experiences at these events.
November 12, 2007 saw the launch of Virgin Unite Canada, a localised arm of Virgin Group's global charitable venture. Virgin Unite, Virgin’s global charity, has the primary objective of creating and supporting programs that foster an immediate, tangible change in the lives of people in need all around the world. The Midnight Magic fundraising gala, hosted by Sir Richard Branson, raised more than $2 million in supplies and donations to help impoverished areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2008, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Unite created the RE*Generation; a movement which sought to empower a generation to help its own and bring light to the cause of youth homelessness in Canada. RE*Generation supports organizations and the efforts of creating brighter futures for at-risk and homeless youth. Since 2013, more than $2.5 million was raised by Virgin Mobile and Virgin Unite through programs like Change For A Dollar, Text to Donate, Virgin Mobile Re*Generation phones, and the Virgin Mobile RE*Generation benefit concerts.
- The Samsung M300 was released in May 2008. $15 was directly donated to Virgin Unite. The red-coloured model was released exclusively to Virgin Mobile.
- The Samsung Link RE*Generation was released on May 10, 2010. $10 was directly donated to Virgin Unite. The phone is now discontinued. The red-coloured model was released exclusively to Virgin Mobile.
- The Samsung Gravity 3 Re*Generation was released on June 10, 2011. $15 was donated to Virgin Unite. While it is touted as "Limited Edition", other carriers such as SaskTel and Solo Mobile sell the phone in its red colour, but without donating $15 of every purchase to Virgin Unite. Both operators carried the phone after Virgin Mobile carried the non-charitable version, but before Virgin carried the Re*Generation model.
- The Samsung Ace II x was released on November 22, 2012. For each sale of the phone $15 was donated to Virgin Mobile Re*Generation to fight against youth homelessness.
- The Samsung Galaxy S5 was released on April 11, 2014. For each sale of the phone $15 was donated to Virgin Mobile Re*Generation to fight against youth homelessness.
Virgin Mobile also offers a loyalty program for volunteers, where they can earn points by helping select charities. Points can be redeemed for prizes such as concert tickets. During the months of June and July in 2011, Virgin Unite volunteers in Canada could redeem 500 points for any Canadian concert in Katy Perry's California Dreams Tour excluding Montreal.
Since its inception, Virgin Mobile Canada has its own dedicated retail kiosks. Such booths are usually located in the middle of a mall hall, but can sometimes be found in its own corner or built as a mini-store.
Virgin Mobile products cannot be purchased at Bell corporate stores, and vice versa. The two brands remain separate, despite sharing a common owner.
On June 10, 2011, Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson and Glee star Cory Monteith celebrated the opening of Virgin Mobile Canada's first street-front store, located in Montreal. A few days later, on June 17, a second Virgin store was built inside the MuchMusic headquarters in Toronto. This store is called "Virgin Mobile at Much". The third retail store was opened in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Starting Q3 2012, select Virgin Mobile Canada retail locations became what are known as 'Service Lounges', A Service Lounge offers live, in person Warranty Support and can accept broken devices eligible for repair under the Virgin Mobile Standard Warranty Program in addition to issuing 'Loaner Devices'. In Q4 2012 Virgin Mobile Canada also started offering an extended warranty program called 'Virgin Smart Care' (VSC). There are two tiers of VSC, Basic and Advanced for $4 and $7 a month respectively. VSC is only available at the time and visit of the purchase of your Virgin Mobile Branded Device. At the time of writing there are 6 Service Lounge locations across Canada.
- "Bell acquires all of Virgin Mobile Canada". CBC News. 2009-05-07.
- "Bell Mobility acquires full ownership of Virgin Mobile Canada". Bell Canada Enterprises. 2009-05-07.
- Tong, Arianne. "Strategy Online".
- Tong, Arianne. "Member Benefits program".
- CIRA WHOIS.
- Virgin Mobile Canada official website on June 16, 2004.
- Virgin Mobile Canada official website on March 3, 2005.
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- Virgin Mobile - prices&features
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- Samsung Gravity 3 Virgin Mobile press release
- Samsung Gravity 3 at Solo Mobile
- Samsung Gravity 3 at SaskTel
- Virgin Mobile is giving Volunteers the chance to see Katy Perry live!
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