Ting, a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, is rolling out wireless plans with no overage charges or contracts, appealing to mobile users who want freedom and flexibility.
Ting offers customers the option to pay for allotments of voice minutes, data megabytes and text messages. When users go over their monthly quota, they’ll automatically bump up to the next tier of service for the month.
Likewise, if customers underuse their plan, they will be bumped down to a lower tier and their account will be credited for the difference.
Ting’s sliding scale approach may appeal to heavy data users trying to avoid overage charges. The major U.S. carriers have eliminated or scaled back unlimited service, charging fees for every extra megabyte or minute used, and customers often get an unpleasant surprise in the form of a bill that’s higher than expected.
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have all ended unlimited service, opting for tiered plans in an effort to curb heavy data consumption and ease network strain. Sprint is may be scaling back unlimited plans as well.
Ting’s model allows users to slide between tiers, so it may help people avoid paying for service they won’t use. It may also make it easier for customers to understand and control expenses, since Ting users will pay a flat fee for the next data tier whether they go over their plan by just a little or a lot.
The plan could save heavy users money every month, but people who tend to go over their plan by just a few bytes or minutes may end up paying more with Ting since they will be charged the full amount for a higher tier even for a small overage.
Hosting company Tucows plans to make Ting available by the middle of 2012 as a virtual plan using the Sprint network. Ting won’t require a contract, so customers won’t be able to buy a subsidized device like they can from other carriers, which offset smartphone prices by requiring two-year contracts.
Ting’s list of available devices is limited currently to feature phones and Android devices like the HTC Detail, but the carrier may beef up its phone offerings by launch. The company also says it plans to offer the iPhone in the future, which would make it the first virtual carrier in the U.S. to offer Apple’s device, potentially making it the lowest-priced iPhone service available.
Ting is expected to join a competitive field with many established and new carriers jockeying for a niche among consumers. Its success may depend on whether people are willing to pay more for a phone in order to avoid monthly overage fees.