Sprint launches program to let MVNOs customize smartphones

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) announced a new program Wednesday aimed at making it easier for its MVNOs to place their brands into unsold Sprint Android smartphones.

The initiative, called the Custom Branded Device Program, will give Sprint MVNOs greater access to unbranded Android smartphones from Sprint and Boost Mobile device inventory, with volume pricing included. Sprint said certain Android devices can be automatically modified through its Mobile ID and Mobile Zone services, giving MVNOs the ability to push their brands directly into select phones via over-the-air activation.

Currently, there are three devices available for the program: LG Electronics' Optimus G, the LG Mach and the ZTE-made Sprint Flash. However, Sprint said it will add "several additional devices" to the lineup by the end of this month.

During the past year, Sprint has become a hotbed of MVNO activity. Companies including FreedomPop, Republic Wireless, Ting, Votel and Voyager Mobile have all announced plans to launch Sprint service or recently launched Sprint service. Sprint launched a new MVNO strategy last summer aimed at allowing any company to become an MVNO.

Late last year Ting launched a public beta for its bring-your-own-Sprint-device program, which allows customers to port a Sprint device to the Ting service without an activation fee.

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