Virgin Mobile became the world's first mobile virtual network operator in 1999 when launched in the UK. Instead of maintaining its own network, Virgin mobile uses the existing networks belonging to other providers. In the UK, Virgin uses the T-Mobile network. Richard Branson's Virgin Group, which includes Virgin Atlantic, provides the brand, and the phone company operates the network infrastructure. Within a year of launch, Virgin's Mobiles had over 500,000 customers, and now has more than four million customers.
Originally, Virgins Mobiles was formed as a joint venture between T-Mobile and the Virgin Group. At the beginning of 2004, Virgin Group bought out T-Mobile and floated Virgin Mobile UK on the London Stock Exchange, while retaining a 72% stake. The intention was to raise up to £279m by selling up to 43% of Virgin Mobile. Only £125m was raised from the sale of a 25% stake, after a 20% cut in the listing value. A further 3% was later sold on market.
In July 2006, NTL:Telewest acquired Virgin Mobiles. NTL delisted it from the London Stock Exchange, leaving Virgin Group with a 10.5% shareholding. It extended the Virgin brand across its business in February 2007, re-launching as Virgin Media. Several key personnel, including Alan Gow, Joe (Jonathan) Steel and Philip Nash, left the company. The rebranding meant that customers could buy a complete package of broadband Internet, TV, and fixed and mobile telephony. Several mobile phone service providers in the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, the USA and France use Virgin Mobile. Each of the international businesses acts as an independent entity. In all countries, Virgin Mobile offers pay as you go phones and in the UK, US, Australia and South Africa, Virgin Mobile also offers monthly contracts. Currently, Virgin Mobile employs 1,400 staff at three sites and has an outsourced customer service centre in Middlesbrough.
In 2005 Virgin was the number one most admired brand in the UK according to HPI Research. It offers a wide range of mobile communications products and services, including SMS, MMS and 3G, and entertainment services, which include games, information and music services, and international roaming. Virgin mobile phone products are available through about 5,000 outlets in the UK, including Virgin Mobile Stores within Virgin Megastores, Carphone Warehouse, The Link, Dixons, Phones 4u, Curry's, Comet, Tesco, Asda, John Lewis, Argos, TOMO, Woolworths, Toys R Us and Ryman. They are additionally available through independent dealers, catalogues and home shopping channels. Virgin Mobile Pay Monthly is available from Virgin Mobile Stores, Carphone Warehouse, The Link, Phones4U and at concessions in WH Smith as well as online at www.virginmobile.co.uk with the international jumping off point at www.virginmobile.com - try the very flashy versions (no pun intended) at www.virginmobiles.co.uk / www.virginmobiles.com.
Virgin mobile phones offers a choice of 29 pay monthly phones, including most of the popular brands such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung. All handsets are free on selected tariffs. The different plans offer varying combinations of free minutes and texts and an initial contract lasts for twelve months. You can also choose a Pay Monthly SIM only. Virgin's Mobile phones have no minimum term and no ties. You can leave any time after your first month. If you want a pay as you go phone, you can choose from a range of handsets and pay a single rate per minute for calls to UK landlines or to a UK cell phone. If you buy a Pay As You Go phone for a certain amount, Virgins Mobile Phones throw in extra texts, free. Airtime can be bought online, through a personal swipe card that lets you buy airtime from over 40,000 stores and petrol stations, at many ATMs, by direct debit or by using Virgins Mobile Phone vouchers. New phones can be ordered from Virgin's Mobile Phone website and will normally be delivered within 24 hours - except for Sundays and public holidays. A small delivery charge is made for each order.
There is a wide range of flexible ways to pay and including double value contracts. Several bundles of minutes, texts and picture messages are available with no daily limits or time of day restrictions. Unused airtime can be carried over for another month if you buy another bundle. It costs a low rate to text another Virgin Mobile customer in the UK and Virgin Mobile offers flat rate international charges, for both PAYG and pay monthly customers. When you spend a certain amount on calls or messages, Virgin offer money off a new phone up to a specified maximum. Virgin Bites is Virgin's entertainment service and, offering video, games competitions and more. Your first month of bites is free, after which typical charges are made for music or game downloads.
Virgin Mobile has won the Best Customer Service Award at the Mobile Choice Awards six years running and their sites are jammed packed with information and features. A word on navigation as Virgin play around with what site show what! If you're looking for mobile phones then any of the VirginMobile web addresses is your best bet as www.virginphones.co.uk, www.virginphone.co.uk, www.virginphones.com and www.virginphone.com can display anything from worldwide information on all Virgins services to specific phone-related products (they do more than mobiles!). Watch out for extended variations such as www.virginmobilephones.com, www.virginmobilephone.com and especially common misspellings such as virgen, vergin and virgine as not all of them are owned by VirginGroup. Best to bookmark the main mobile phone site or even the main www.virgin.com / www.virgin.co.uk website if you intend on coming back to avoid a lengthy round trip or even entering personal information on the wrong site.
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