Samsung hasn’t even officially unveiled its new flagship Galaxy S 4 yet, but one carrier is already announcing it will carry it. No, it’s not AT&T(s t) or Verizon(s vz) or Vodafone(s vod). It’s Tucows’ tiny mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Ting.
Ting said Thursday that it would be among the first in line to sell Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone — which it coyly said is “commonly referred to as the Galaxy S4” — as soon as it is commercially available. (For all of the details of the official S 4 launch Thursday evening starting at 7pm ET (4pm PT), check out my colleague Kevin Tofel’s live blog.)
“In advance of Samsung’s big launch event tomorrow, we’re excited to say that we’ll be able to offer the follow up to the Samsung Galaxy S3, which we’ll call the Samsung Galaxy S 4 unless we’re provided reason to do otherwise,” Tucows Content Development Manager Andrew Moore-Crispin wrote in Tucows’ blog Wednesday. “What’s more, we’ll be able to do so at around the same time as the major carriers; on or at least around the actual launch day.”
That’s quite a coup for Ting, since MVNOs typically have to wait months — if not forever — to become official retailers of the hottest mobile devices. Not only do MVNOs have to court handset vendors that often have cozy relationships with the big carriers, but they also have to get permission from their carrier partners. In Ting’s case, Sprint(s s) provides it network access and ultimately it gets to decide whether Ting or any other Sprint MVNO gets to sell the same devices in its portfolio.
In the last year, though, carriers and Sprint in particular have loosened the leashes on their MVNOS, giving them access to goodies like hot devices and new 4G networks they would normally reserve for themselves. Ting became the first LTE MVNO in August, tapping into Sprint’s brand new 4G service shortly after it launched, and it only had to wait to two months before it could sell the Galaxy S3.
Even more recently those market barriers hindering MVNOs fell further. MVNO Solavei got an early drop on U.S. carriers by becoming the first operator to sell the BlackBerry(BBRY) Z10. Ting’s early access to the Galaxy S 4 is another example that MVNOs no longer have to put up with the big carriers’ scraps.