PTel ditches Sprint for T-Mobile, plans ad-subsidized wireless service

PTel Mobile, an MVNO that launched in 2001, dumped Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) as its host carrier in favor of T-Mobile USA. PTel executive Omar Abhari said the move allows the MVNO to expand its handset options, offer lower pricing and provide inventive services like advertising-subsidized wireless service.

"Our play was geared toward getting onto GSM," explained Abhari, who is the senior vice president of operations for PlatinumTel Communications, the parent company of PTel Mobile. "It (GSM) is more of a global technology. The handsets have always been an issue in the CDMA world."

Abhari said PTel Mobile launched in 2001 on Cingular's TDMA service. The company in 2004 moved to Sprint's network in order to offer data and SMS services, and to improve its overall offering.

Now, with the company's switch to T-Mobile, which occurred in December, PTel is lowering its service pricing and expanding its handset offerings. Specifically, Abhari said PTel now offers unlimited talking, texting and 250 MB of high-speed data for $40 per month (data speeds after 250 MB are throttled). Previously the company offered unlimited talking and texting and 250 MB of data for $45 per month--and after 250 MB of data, subscribers' data services were simply cut off.

On the high end, Abhari said PTel now offers unlimited talking and texting and 2 GB of high-speed data for $50 (data speeds after 2 GB are slowed). Previously the company offered unlimited talking and texting and 1 GB of data for $55, and users' data service was shut off after they consumed 1 GB of data.

Abhari said PTel's per-minute pricing remains unchanged at 5 cents per minute.

As for handsets, Abhari said PTel can now offer phones from the likes of HTC, Alcatel and Huawei, whereas before the company was limited to suppliers including LG and Kyocera. Further, the company can now offer a GSM-based, bring-your-own-device plan.

"We want to find and bring some of the best (handset) brands to our customers," Abhari said. "That now is an option, it was never an option before."

Interestingly, PTel Mobile is also in the process of designing some new services. Next month Abhari said PTel will launch a new MVNO brand, Giv Mobile. Giv will offer the same prices and services as PTel, but 8 percent of its revenues will be directed to the charity of a subscriber's choice.

Giv Mobile is "a project that we've been working on for some time," Abhari said, adding that the company will work to make Giv Mobile more of a community than a service by allowing subscribers to suggest new charities that could be added to a list of pre-screened organizations that users can direct funds toward.

Further, Abhari said that PTel Mobile is working on an advertising-subsidized service that will launch either at the end of the third quarter or sometime in the fourth quarter. Abhari said the technology is still being developed, but the company hopes to allow users to opt in to advertisements and in exchange get a discount on the cost of their wireless service.

"There's a very unique opportunity on mobile" to innovate in advertising, Abhari said.

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Article updated to remove reference to service pricing on GSM.