Virgin Mobile’s new build-your-own smartphone plans may be seen as convenient by many consumers, but they also represent the most glaring net neutrality foul we’ve seen come from a US carrier. The Sprint-owned company likely suspects that most people won’t care about the latter point. Starting next month, Virgin customers will be able to piece together a completely personalized plan — plans that could potentially turn social networks like Facebook and Twitter into line items on your monthly bill. Because with Virgin’s new approach, you’re no longer just paying for voice, texts, and a bucket of data. The Virgin Mobile Custom plans, launching exclusively at Walmart on August 9th, let you pay separate fees for things like unlimited social networking and unlimited music streaming.
Virgin Mobile’s new prepaid program will give its customers some serious options. The prepaid arm, a unit of Sprint, unveiled Virgin Mobile Custom on Wednesday, a new offering that allows customers to control on a granular level how many minutes and text messages and how much data they want on their plan — settings that can each be adjusted on the fly directly on the smartphone. The service will launch August 9 through an exclusive deal with Walmart. The service is powered by ItsOn, a startup that launched the Zact wireless service Sprint shuttered earlier this month after the two struck a multi-year licensing agreement. ItsOn’s Smart Service Virtual Network Technology is what enables the real-time tinkering of plans available on Virgin Mobile Custom. As Sprint continues to bleed customers, particularly from its core business, it’s increasingly looking to its prepaid units to pick up the slack. The carrier has long bet big on prepaid as a growth driver, running both Virgin and Boost Mobile, as well as the low-income cell-phone service Assurance Wireless. But the company faces intensifying competition from T-Mobile’s MetroPCS getting more aggressive and AT&T’s Cricket Wireless relaunching as a national prepaid service. Sprint hopes Virgin Mobile Custom, which brings unprecedented customer control over plans, stands out from the pack. “We’re excited to see how it goes,” said Dow Draper, president of Sprint’s prepaid business.