The slow Reinvention of Virgin Mobile Canada

It was a year ago that Robert Blumenthal, President of Virgin Mobile Canada stated that 2010 will be “a very different Virgin… You’ll see a great expansion in our portfolio and us being able to offer higher-value devices and services. Where we had been traditionally lower down in the marketplace, we’ll be expanding to realize our true potential… Over time, I have a belief that as more people become wireless users and their wireless usage becomes more of a necessity than a luxury … people tend to move up.”

All the above quotes are very true. 2010 did present a “very different Virgin”. These days Virgin Mobile is not the usual sub-brand carrier. They are a bit different than Fido which is owned by Rogers and also different than TELUS’ Koodo Mobile. Virgin has slowly gone through a re-invention, this is mainly due to Bell paying out $142-million to take over the outstanding 50% stake in the brand. To the average consumer you would never know that Virgin is owned by Bell – they really do a great job of covering it up. They are the rebels in Canadian wireless and truly cater to their target audience by offering their members cool contests and events.

Over the years Virgin has won multiple J.D. Power and Associates awards, mainly for “Customer Satisfaction”. No word yet on if they will take any prizes for 2010. When it comes to pricing there’s really nothing special that sets Virgin apart from the other sub-brands. They recently came out with a new pricing model called the “SuperTab” that’s basically a copy of Koodo’s “Tab”. However, handsets are the major difference (and these days handsets are key). Their old CDMA network has almost vanished and offered basic messaging devices that by the time Virgin launched them were outdated. Virgin operates on the Bell HSPA+ network and offers up-to-date handsets: Androids, BlackBerry, iPhone and various messaging devices. On occasion they have had exclusive devices (Samsung Galaxy 550) and in very odd cases they took the opportunity to become the first carrier in North America to release a device, the HTC Legend. Impressive for a sub-brand. Koodo, Fido or even the new entrants Wind and Mobilicity need a selection similar to Virgin to continue to compete.

You might be walking through a mall and notice something different when it comes to how Virgin is presenting themselves. They are in the midst of changing up all their kiosks to look cooler, highlight select devices and showcase their entire lineup of devices. Gone are the days of paper posters as they have been replaced with digital monitors. This is just another way that Virgin is continually evolving in this competitive market.

There is no word on exact subscriber number because everything gets rolled into Bell’s numbers. Looking back on 2010 for Virgin was a pivotal year… in 2011 Virgin Mobile will slowly make an impact and surprise everybody. They are one of the carriers to watch this coming year.