Defense Mobile, an MVNO working with Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) and Sprint (NYSE: S), is officially launching its commercial service as "of veterans, by veterans and for veterans."
The MVNO is geared toward active-duty U.S military members, veterans and their families and is committed to giving 10 percent of its profits back to non-profit groups that support veterans in need. The company also has a customer care center staffed exclusively by veterans. Additionally, Defense Mobile offers apps for its customers that help them navigate military benefits and get a prepaid debit card with cash-back rewards at select merchants.
Defense Mobile first broke cover in August 2013 as an MVNO solely running on Sprint's network. However, the company now works with AT&T and Verizon and is working on a deal with T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). When it was first announced, the company said actual service would not begin until sometime in 2014.
In November 2014 the company announced itself yet again, and inked a deal with Amdocs to supply its BSS system. It's unclear when and why Defense Mobile decided to branch out beyond Sprint or why it decided to publicly relaunch its brand in 2014. A Defense Mobile spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
Defense Mobile offers a range of plans, starting at $30 per month for 300 voice minutes, 300 texts and 300 MB of LTE data. The company's $40, $50 and $80 plans all come with unlimited voice and texting and 1 GB, 3 GB and 10 GB of LTE data, respectively. Defense Mobile does not throttle users but simply cuts off their data access if they exceed their allotments (the company notifies customers about their data usage once they reach 75 percent and 90 percent of their allotments).
The company lets customers bring their own phones but also offers a range of unsubsidized devices, including the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S5, Alcatel OneTouch Pop C9, Motorola Moto E and more.
"It is our job to leverage the network to connect the community together," Defense Mobile CEO and co-founder Brendan Reilly told USA Today. "There's probably very few similarities with all veterans in America but I'll tell you what two of them are. One is that they've served and two is that they've got a cell phone in their pocket right now."
The potential market for the MVNO is large. As USA Today notes, there are more than 20 million veterans, and more than 2.1 million active duty military personnel. Combined with their families, "this is a massive grouping of people," Reilly said.
Defense Mobile plans to expand to 25,000 stores, including military retail channels such as AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service), DCA (Defense Commissary Agency) and Navy Exchanges, according to USA Today. The company also wants to get support from local merchants and major retailers.
One app the company offers is called MiliSource, and includes a tab for relevant community resources sorted by status. The app is designed to help veterans find out which benefits they might be able to receive.
A separate MiliPay app will be linked to a prepaid MasterCard, which will also be provided with every new mobile device purchased from the MVNO. Subscribers using the prepaid MasterCard will get immediate cash-back rewards at gas pumps and checkout counters and when paying most utility bills, and the rewards will be deposited into the member's MiliPay account, which can be tracked via the phone app.
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