It’s plain to see we’re experiencing a renaissance of mobile virtual network operators. After numerous virtual operators died off in the last decade, new MVNOs — which repackage and resell the major carriers’ voice, SMS and data services — are now popping up almost weekly. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for new virtual operators to distinguish themselves from one another.
MVNO veteran PlatinumTel is launching a new carrier brand called GIV Mobile Wednesday, separating it from the pack not by offering unlimited data, selling app-specific plans or implementing bandwidth sharing features. Instead GIV is playing the role of charitable fund-raiser. You don’t just sign up for a voice and data plan. You sign up for one or more charities such as the American Red Cross or the Alzheimer’s Association. GIV claims it will donate 8 percent of your bill to those selected charities each month, or up to $50 per year per customer.
Of course, it might seem easier to cut a check for $50 to your charity choice rather than build your mobile service around the idea of giving. But GIV seems to targeting the same segment of the population that latches onto to charity vanity credit cards, which donate a small portion of every purchase to a customer’s organization of choice, rather than award points or miles. By allowing customers to divide their giving between multiple charities GIV acts a bit like a donation box; it aggregates a bunch of tiny gifts from individual consumers into one big check.
The MVNO is offering customers dozens of initial charities to choose from, ranging from animal welfare groups to environmental causes to disease research (you can see a full list here). Every six months GIV will take submissions from its customers for new charities, and then those same customers will vote to name one new organization to its roster each period.
As for the actual mobile service, GIV looks like many of the new breed of smartphone-centric prepaid MVNOs popping up. It offers two plans both of which have unlimited voice and text, both of which use T-Mobile’s network. The $40 plan includes 250 MB of monthly HSPA+ data before speeds are throttled, while the $50 plan includes 2 GB of data. There’s still new word on what phones GIV will sell starting tomorrow, but it will support any GSM phone that works on T-Mobile’s network for customers who just buy a SIM card.