US operator Sprint has reorganised its prepaid mobile offerings to target specific customer segments using four different prepaid brands. The strategy includes a major overhaul at Virgin Mobile USA, the prepaid business it acquired last year. “We brought together the resources and experience of the Boost and Virgin Mobile teams in late 2009,” said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. “Since that time, we have been developing the critical pieces of our multi-brand prepaid strategy.” The Virgin Mobile business is to focus “on serving customers who use text and data services to power constant connection with their social networks.” Rather than per-minute billing, the service will offer unlimited messaging, email, data and web included on all plans starting at US$25 a month. Four Virgin Mobile handsets are available, including – unusually for a prepaid service – a BlackBerry (the Curve 8530).

Virgin Mobile will be positioned alongside three other prepaid brands: Boost Mobile, Assurance Wireless, which takes government subsidies to provide free mobile services to poor households, and a new pay-by-the-minute brand that will launch later this month targeting budget-conscious customers. It also has a prepaid mobile broadband offering known as Broadband2Go. The prepaid market has become increasingly important to Sprint as it continues to lose lucrative postpaid (contract) customers to rivals. In its most recent quarter, the operator lost 578,000 postpaid customers but added 348,000 prepaid customers, its highest prepaid gross subscriber additions count in five years.