Sprint MVNO Ting adds support for GSM service, likely with T-Mobile

Sprint (NYSE:S) MVNO Ting is adding support for GSM service and will launch SIM cards that can be used in unlocked GSM phones. Although Ting is not saying which U.S. GSM carrier it is working with, a coverage map provided by the company of its GSM partner indicates that it will be partnering with T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS).

Ting said its GSM service is scheduled to launch in February 2015 and will operate alongside its existing CDMA service provided by Sprint. Once the GSM service launches, customers with CDMA and GSM devices will be able to operate on a single Ting account and will share a single pool of minutes, messages and megabytes of data, which Ting billed as an industry first.

Ting Director Scott Allan told FierceWireless that he could not say which GSM carrier Ting is working with due to contractual obligations. However, a coverage map Ting provided to FierceWireless mirrors the national coverage footprint of T-Mobile.

Customers will be able to bring unlocked GSM phones to Ting and purchase a GSM SIM card to work with the phone. Ting's GSM SIM cards will cost $9 or less, according to Allan.

Ting now counts more than 80,000 accounts on its service, up from 50,000 in February. Under Ting's plans, users can share pools of minutes, messages and megabytes of data, and pay a monthly fee of $6 per phone. Users then also pay at the end of month based on how much they used in terms of minutes, texts or data, but pay based on a range. For instance, using between 501 and 1,000 minutes would cost $18 per month, using between 101 and 1,000 text messages would cost $5 per month and using more than 2 GB of data would cost $29, plus 1.5 cents per each additional megabyte. However, users can mix and match usage on each pool.

Allan said Ting wanted to offer potential customers a wider device selection afforded by adding a GSM partner. "The device landscape is wide open relative to the CDMA world," he said.

Allan said Ting only began discussing adding a GSM partner within the last six months but that the move fits with what Ting offers to customers. "It aligns with our brand," he said. "We want consumers to have choices. And we want consumers to have freedom. And we want to provide innovative services. GSM really ticks all those boxes for us." 

While Ting is adding GSM service, Allan stressed repeatedly that Ting is not doing so because it is unhappy with its relationship with Sprint or the quality of Sprint's network. "This isn't a, 'We're unhappy with Sprint' move," he said. "Ting wouldn't exist without Sprint."

Ting launched in February 2012 via Sprint.  "They were really supportive and still are very supportive in helping us get to market and helping us get through the first few years and hopefully the next few years," Allan said.

Although Sprint has been dinged this year for slow data speeds and overall network performance by third parties like network testing firm RootMetrics, Allan said that Ting is "seeing real network gains in certain markets. We know it is going to take a while for public perception to catch up with that."

Allan said it would "irresponsible to not concede that we understand network performance to be one of the bigger factors in customer satisfaction, which is our mission at Ting. We see real performance improvements in the Sprint network. We have a dialogue with them where we feel those changes are going to grow and be positive."

At the same time, he said, there is "no question we are happy to give consumer s choice and let the operators bring value by doing what they are supposed to do, which is operate good networks."

"Any performance benefit that our customers get as a result of this is an upside," he said.

Sprint's 1900 MHz LTE network now covers 260 million POPs and its 2.5 GHz LTE network is expected to cover 100 million POPs by year-end. T-Mobile says its LTE network now covers 250 million POPs and is on track to cover 260 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2014.

For more:
- see this Ting post

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