J.P. Larocque (jp_larocque) wrote,
J.P. Larocque

On Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile USA is a pretty reasonable cell phone company, if you don't use your cell phone often. It's especially nice if you primarily use your landline; for less than a dollar a month, Qwest can forward calls to your landline that you don't answer (after, say, 3 rings) to your cell phone, minimizing your cell minutes while you're at home. (In an ideal world, I'd love for both phones to ring simultaneously until one of them is answered. Some day I'll do that with Asterisk.)

If you use less than 88 minutes a month, the $0.18 TALK plan is the cheapest: that's the flat rate. No monthly fee. If you use more talk time, $6.99 TALK wins: $6.99 is the monthly fee, and you pay $0.10/min on top of that. All the other, more expensive plans where you puchase a set number of minutes each month aren't worth it: if you use just the right amount of airtime, you might come out ahead; use less (by a small margin) and you pay for more than you need; use more (by a small margin) and your overage is $0.25/min.

Correction: Many of the bucket-of-minutes plans include extra or unlimited night/weekend minutes. That's kind of important, but I didn't consider that for my comparisons.

I'm only writing this because I worked out this graph a few months ago and decided to post it. See the margins?

There are two down sides. There's an effective minimum commitment to spend at least $6.66/mo on average, no-matter what your plan: you are required to "top-up" (make a payment) of $20 every 90 days, even if you have a cash balance. This is cumulative, so you don't lose your old balance. Also, the marketing/customer service image: "yo yo, this is Simone, thanks for choosing Virgin Mobile, home-skillet."

But I really love VMU because you use it strictly pre-paid. They'd love to have your credit card information, but they don't need it—or any credit checks—you can pay in cash if you are so inclined. They'd also appreciate using your real name with their service, surely, but there's no compelling reason to use it, if you're so inclined. (It worked out well for Jason Bourne!)

set xrange [0:1200]
set yrange [0:125]
set xtics 100
set mxtics 4
set mytics 4
set xlabel "Daytime, non-mobile-to-mobile minutes spent per month"
set ylabel "Dollars spent per month"
#set label "$15.73, 87 min" at 87.375,15.7275
set grid
set samples 5000

max(x,y) = (x > y) ? x : y
min(x,y) = (x < y) ? x : y

mrc_talk(x, mrc, minutes) = mrc + max (ceil (x) - minutes, 0) * 0.25

plot 0.18*ceil (x) title "$0.18 TALK", \
     6.99 + 0.1*ceil (x) title "$6.99 TALK", \
     mrc_talk (x, 14.99, 100) title "$14.99 TALK", \
     mrc_talk (x, 24.99, 200) title "$24.99 TALK", \
     mrc_talk (x, 34.99, 300) title "$34.99 TALK", \
     mrc_talk (x, 44.99, 400) title "$44.99 TALK", \
     mrc_talk (x, 59.99, 600) title "$59.99 TALK", \
     mrc_talk (x, 99.99, 1000) title "$99.99 TALK"
Tags: cellular
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