Virgin Mobile Canada
|Founded||May 1, 2005|
|Key people||Joseph Ottorino, Managing Director|
|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|This article is outdated.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.
- 1 History
- 2 Networks
- 3 Products
- 4 Services
- 5 Criticism
- 6 Philanthropy
- 7 Retail presence
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 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 claimed: "we work like maniacs to bring you Canada’s most awesome mobile phone company." In August 2013 Virgin mobile switched to 2-year agreements instead of 3-yr agreements and supertab.
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. Since its launch, Virgin 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. This was known as 'myPlan', offering 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. The current slogan, "it's better to be a member", encourages Canadians to consider the postpaid services offered by Virgin Mobile.
Acquisition by Bell Mobility, brand repositioning, HSPA+ and SuperTab (2009-2010)
On May 7, 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" with "higher-value devices and services" in 2010.
Virgin officially launched HSPA+ services on February 2, 2010. This was promoted with a launch party featuring Victoria's Secret models. The BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Curve 8530, the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, MiFi and Samsung M330 were all HSPA+ devices launched on that day. 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 is only available to postpaid customers, while HSPA+ products and services were unavailable to prepaid customers until around spring in 2011.
Unlimited plans and Galaxy Nexus exclusivity (2011)
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 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'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 invited its customers 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-present)
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. While the promotion finished at the end of the day on January 31, Virgin kept the promotion's page and links active for the following day or two.
Mobile services provided by Virgin previously only used Bell Mobility's CDMA network. Since Bell acquired Virgin, however, the brand favoured the use of HSPA+ devices on its HSPA+ network instead. Most such devices are single-cell and experience average between 3½ and 8 Mbit/s, depending on the modem used inside the device.
Virgin Mobile offers a few feature phones. Three are LG. All of them are HSPA+ devices, except for the LG Simple Flip and Samsung Swift which are CDMA indication. They can be activated on either a prepaid or a postpaid plan:
- LG Flick
- LG Rumour Plus
- LG Simple Flip
- Samsung Swift
-As of Feb. 1st 2013 only the Samsung Swift remains available for sale via the wwww.virginmobile.ca website for CDMA.
Virgin Mobile offers various smartphones using various platforms:
- Android: LG Nexus 4, HTC One, HTC Desire C, Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy S4
- BlackBerry 10: BlackBerry Z10, BlackBerry Q10 and BlackBerry Q5
- BlackBerry OS: Curve 9320
- iOS: iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5
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 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. All prepaid vouchers expired after 120 days. There are also prepaid monthly plans and add-ons available at Virgin. The initial pay-per-use rates, however, have drastically increased over time. For example, Virgin eliminated talk time discounts previously available for customers who talked for more than five minutes in a day. In Q4 2012, Virgin added a prepaid incentive: for every six months of payments on a plan costing $20/month or more, Virgin will allow that customer to add unlimited local calling to any one regular number.
Virgin changed its focus to postpaid plans since 2008. More recently, the brand's talk and text plans imitate competitor Koodo' offerings, featuring a "SuperTab" option and no long distance or roaming charges for calls made from and to Canada. Virgin still has a few minor distinctions which make some of its plans unique. For example, Virgin's plans allow customers to choose either the caller ID and voicemail calling features or the SMS and MMS messaging features. It is also possible to get postpaid smartphone plans, but these include local minutes rather than national.
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 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.
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 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.
Those with a BlackBerry running OS 7.1 or lower, using Virgin cannot obtain Pay Per Use Data. Instead, Virgin 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 bill.
Virgin 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 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 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.
Virgin Mobile offers Bell Mobile TV service rebranded as Virgin Mobile TV.
Since 2010, Virgin Mobile Canada offers a "Members Lounge" loyalty program to customers. This allows Virgin customers, referred to as "members", to access exclusive contests and discounts. Categories include philanthropy ("do some good"), entertainment, fashion, Discounts and allowances ("hot deals") and travel.
On February 2, 2011, the brand announced a partnership with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The following month, Virgin partnered with H&M. In June of that same year, Flight Centre began offering exclusive discounts to Virgin customers. 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.
When Virgin Mobile launched its service in Canada on 1 March 2005, the use of "naughty nurses" in its advertising led to the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario demanding an apology from Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson and an immediate stop to the campaign, and called on members to boycott Virgin Mobile and other Virgin products. Virgin Mobile spokeswoman Paula Lash said the company never intended to offend anyone, but nevertheless refused to withdraw the advertising.
Later that year, in the December 2005 issue of youth magazine Vice, Virgin Mobile included "Super Hot Holiday" wrapping paper as part of its Hot Box phone promotion. The wrapping paper contained illustrated Christmas angels, where the male angel is touching the female's breast, while the female angel has her hand on the male's genitals. After receiving a complaint, Cineplex Entertainment stopped its partnership deals with Virgin Mobile. As of July 2011, the cinema chain currently partners with Telus Mobility and its brands instead.
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 and the Virgin Mobile RE*Generation benefit concerts.
There are also red-coloured feature phones for Virgin Mobile, branded as RE*Generation and released by Samsung as an effort to fundraise for Virgin Unite. They are similar in concept to Product Red in that the products are coloured red and a donation is made for every device purchased:
- The Samsung Link RE*Generation was released on May 10, 2010. This CDMA device was sold at the initial cost of $69.99, and for every purchase, $10 was directly donated to Virgin Unite. The phone is now discontinued. While other carriers such as Bell Mobility and Solo Mobile also sold the Samsung Link, the red-coloured model was released exclusively to Virgin Mobile.
- The Samsung Gravity 3 Re*Generation was released on June 10, 2011. An HSPA+ device, its current price is $0 on a three-year contract or SuperTab, $129.99 on a 30-day postpaid plan, or $69.99 on a prepaid plan. Regardless of the price paid for this device, $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 carried the non-charitable version, but before Virgin carried the Re*Generation model.
Virgin 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.
Following Bell Mobility's complete acquisition of Virgin Mobile Canada in 2009, the company slowly abandoned its own Solo Mobile brand in order to prioritize its new Virgin brand. Stores that were previously dedicated to Solo, such as the one in Rideau Centre, now belong to Virgin.
Bell Canada's purchase of all The Source electronics stores allowed the company to sell its mobile brands inside most but not all of these stores. Sales began on January 4, 2010, after the chain's exclusivity agreement with Rogers Communications expired at the end of 2009. Mobile brands sold currently include those of Bell and Virgin. While Solo was previously sold as well, this ended on October 2011 when Bell discontinued sales of that brand and requested that all Solo products be returned to the company.
Virgin 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 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.
- CIRA WHOIS.
- Virgin Mobile Canada official website on June 16, 2004.
- Virgin Mobile Canada official website on March 3, 2005.
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- Hardy, Ian. "Virgin looking for 5 Galaxy Nexus "Tester Team" members, will give you a free Galaxy Nexus". Retrieved 2011-12-15.
- Hardy, Ian. "Virgin offering new customers who BYOP (bring your own phone) monthly discounts". Mobile Syrup. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
- Hardy, Ian. "Virgin Mobile to launch LTE network, "just in time for new iPad"". Mobile Syrup. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
- Virgin Mobile - prices&features
- "Nurses to boycott 'demeaning' Virgin Mobile ads".
- "Virgin gets naughty with Vice for the holidays".
- "Cellphone company on Santa's 'naughty' list".
- Cineplex theatre locations and magazines.
- 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!
- "Bell Mobility and Virgin Mobile now available at The Source". Bell Canada Enterprises. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
- Hardy, Ian. "Virgin Mobile expands past the kiosk, opens flagship street-front store in Montreal". Mobile Syrup. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- Hardy, Ian. "Virgin Mobile opens store inside Much Music". Mobile Syrup. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- Hardy, Ian. "Update: Virgin opens flagship Halifax store, celebrates by giving $100 off smartphones". Mobile Syrup. Retrieved 2011-11-09.