Sprint’s Virgin Mobile USA to offer iPhone

Sprint Nextel Corp. is expected to announce this week that it will begin carrying the Apple iPhone on a prepaid basis through its Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go brand.

The CNET report stated that the iPhone will arrive on Virgin Mobile USA as early as next month.

CNET drew from a widely cited Dow Jones report, and follows last week’s announcement that Leap Wireless’s Cricket would sell the device, marking the beginning of the iPhone’s jump into the prepaid marketplace.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while Sprint gained 489,000 prepaying customers in the first quarter of this year, it lost 192,000 contract customers. The report also noted that contract customers are considered more valuable.

Sprint started selling the iPhone on its Sprint brand in October of 2011 and sold 3.3 million of the Apple devices over the last two quarters.

Offering one of the world’s most popular phones in a pay-as-you-go platform on Virgin Mobile opens the company up to a wider base of customers. Prepaid phones not only don’t require contracts, but they do not require a credit check.

The Virgin Mobile offering will be more widely available than the service offered by Cricket as Cricket is located in smaller markets and customers must live in its network to buy the phone.

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According to the Journal report, the Cricket network covers about 60 million people, while Virgin Mobile claims to cover 278 million, nearly the entire United States.

Cricket will make the iPhone available June 22 and plans to charge $499.99 for a 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S and $399.99 for the older 8-gigabyte iPhone 4.

CNET noted that the Virgin Mobile’s price plan was not made available, and a company representative refused comment.

The iPhone was once an exclusive device only available through AT&T, but will now be available through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Cricket and various other regional carriers with Virgin Mobile being the most recent addition.