RingPlus, which offers talk time, text and data bundles to consumers for free in return for their agreement to listen to sponsored content while they wait for calls to be answered, has signed a wholesale agreement with Sprint in the US to offer its plans on the network.
The plans launch on Saturday, offering 200 minutes of voice calls, 50 text messages, and 10MB of LTE data, with usage over and above these caps billed at two cents per minute, text, and MB).
RingPlus will also offer reduced price paid plans for its higher usage members. In addition to network access, the content plans will use Sprint's Wholesale Mobile Integration (WMI) connection, in combination with RingPlus’ patented ringback tone media channel technology, to create a new media channel for its members.
RingPlus' Media Channel plays interactive, radio-style content, including music, news and relevant deals from sponsors to the members during the time the member waits for a call to be answered. Members can customize their experience by selecting from a wide range of music by genre and news stations by interests. If RingPlus members are interested in a coupon, music, or news story, they can press 5 on their phone’s keypad to receive a text message or an email containing a coupon or additional information.
Sponsors can book and bid for coupon placement over RingPlus' web interface, AdVoice where they can target different demographics and locations based on their advertising needs.
“MVNOs like RingPlus are stepping up to deliver some of the most creative and differentiated offers available to wireless consumers,” said Scott Kalinoski, vice president, global wholesaleand emerging solutions at Sprint. “With our quality network and successful MVNO products and services, Sprint can help businesses like RingPlus quickly deliver an innovative wireless option to their customers.”
David Murphy writes:
The history of ad-funded free tariff plans does not make for happy reading. Take Blyk, an ad-funded MVNO which launched in 2006 – while the company is still in existence, it pivoted to an 'editorial content and advertising services' provider for operators in 2009. To quote from Blyk's site, one of its most important learnings was that "mobile communication doesn't need to be free of charge because customers definitely appreciate they need to pay for the quality and infrastructures of the networks."
More recently in the UK, we've seen Ovivo and Samba Mobile launch with similar business models, both of which closed down last year. But perhaps the support of a major carrier like Sprint, and the fact we are a few years down the line and consumers are more used/open to the idea of the value exchange will work in RingPlus’s favour. Or maybe not.
Businesses like this always need scale if they are to appeal to advertisers. The success or otherwise of the RingPlus/Sprint partnership will ultimately depend on how many dollars Sprint is prepared to spend on promoting it.