MVNO Simple Mobile gains steam, passes 1.5M activations

T-Mobile USA MVNO Simple Mobile is picking up steam in the market, and passed the 1.5 million activation mark earlier this month. However, it's unclear how AT&T's (NYSE:T) proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile could affect the company.

Simple Mobile, which has been in operation since November 2009, crossed the 1.5 million activation mark at the beginning of June, a little more than four months after it passed 1 million total activations at the end of January. Thus, Simple Mobile makes up about half of T-Mobile's MVNO business; as of March 31, T-Mobile counted a total of 3.2 million MVNO customers on its network.

Interestingly, Simple Mobile does not sell phones; instead, the company provides provisioned SIM cards that users can insert into unlocked GSM phones.

Tim Garrett, Simple Mobile's senior vice president of marketing, told FierceWireless that around half of the company's subscriber base is made up of smartphone users. He said the company's smartphone subscribers are a mix of customers coming from other carriers and others who just come with unlocked phones. "For some people, talk and text is all they need, so we still have a strong user base with basic models as well," he said.

Earlier this month, Simple Mobile launched a new plan for $50 with unlimited voice, texting and 2G data. Simple Mobile also offers a $40 plan for unlimited voice and texting, and a $60 plan for unlimited voice, texting and HSPA+ mobile broadband access.

"What we heard from our customers is that they'd rather have unlimited Web at slower speeds instead of being capped at 100 MB of data," Garrett said. "We're happy to give it to them. Before we made any long-term decision about the $50 unlimited plan, we wanted to see the full reaction in the marketplace, and so far it has been very positive, so we see it as part of the mix for awhile."

Garrett said the company is currently looking at new plans, strategic alliances with handset makers and better ways to reach its customers. To that end, Garrett said the company continues to focus on its dealer base, digital marketing and even possible endorsements from sports figures. "We're working on some bigger ideas that are really going to make an impact, but it's too early to discuss those plans," he said.

And how will the AT&T deal for T-Mobile impact Simple Mobile? For now, both T-Mobile and the MVNO are staying mum. "Our MVNO partners are an important part of our business, so we work closely with them to ensure the partnership is a successful one," a T-Mobile spokeswoman told FierceWireless. "T-Mobile is certainly pleased with the customer growth that Simple Mobile has achieved to date." Garrett declined to speculate on any changes that might happen if the deal goes through, but said for now the company is "getting full support and pressing full-steam ahead."

"The industry thought we were crazy not to sell phones, but I think we've proven that it works," Garrett said.

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Correction, June 30, 2011: This article originally stated Simple Mobile recently passed the 1.5 million subscriber mark. It passed 1.5 million activations.