updated 08:50 am EDT, Thu May 7, 2009
Bell Buys Virgin Mobile CA
Bell on Thursday said it had bought up the remaining stakes in Virgin Mobile Canada, taking complete control of the prepay-heavy carrier. The takeover is mutual and is labeled by Bell as part of its attempt to take the lead in the Canadian cellphone market. The Virgin label will continue to exist separate from Bell but will reportedly have streamlined operations, including a shared network and the ability to get the same phones as Bell.
Crucially, Bell adds that the deal will put Virgin Mobile users on an HSPA-based 3G network sometime after it goes live for Bell in early 2010, expanding the choices in phones and providing options for roaming with handsets outside of North America. Virgin has lately expanded to include BlackBerries and subscription service in its lineup but, as it depends on CDMA networking, has been excluded from many phones from Nokia and Sony Ericsson.
A switch to HSPA would potentially step up competition against Rogers, which through Fido has had both a more diverse phone set and specifically has given its budget label access to the iPhone, which has been technically impossible for both Bell and Virgin until now. Bell hasn't publicly expressed its stance on the iPhone but has been aggressive in pursuing rival phones, first opting for the Samsung Instinct and BlackBerry Storm while just Wednesday becoming the exclusive Palm Pre carrier for Canada.
It's unclear how the Virgin buyout will affect Solo, Bell's fully-owned prepay and budget subscription brand.