Sprint prepaid unit Virgin Mobile USA told customers its service would be discontinued, marking the end of the brand’s almost 18-year presence in the market, with the majority of users set to be pushed onto sister provider Boost Mobile.

In a statement on the Virgin Mobile USA website, it said users were being informed by text message and the switchover would begin next month.

Combining the bases of its Virgin Mobile operation with Boost Mobile would simplify Sprint’s sub-brand base ahead of its proposed divestment to Dish Network. The transaction is one of the conditions of regulatory approval for Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile US.

Prior to making the agreement to divest Boost Mobile, T-Mobile US COO Mike Sievert stated there were no plans to eliminate any of the two businesses’ prepaid operations, as the brands would “play an important role” in its ability to target different user segments.

Virgin Mobile USA entered the market as an MVNO in 2002 led by then CEO Dan Schulman, who is now in charge at e-commerce giant PayPal. The operator conducted an IPO in 2007 and was eventually acquired by Sprint Nextel in 2009.

In 2016 the brand was marketed as an iPhone-only network, an initiative scrapped just over a year later.

As with other Virgin Mobile services around the world, the brand name is licensed from multinational Virgin Group.

GlobalData senior analyst Tammy Parker said the move was no surprise given Sprint’s primary focus on its Boost Mobile brand and the failure of its iPhone-only strategy.

She added: “Virgin Mobile’s unique but ultimately disastrous 14-month foray into being an Apple iPhone-only carrier targeting higher-value customers really crushed all hopes of revitalisation for the Sprint sub-brand.”

“By the time this dubious experiment ended in August 2018, Virgin Mobile had alienated its existing Android customers, and the fact that it continued selling Android devices despite its stated iPhone-only strategy confused potential customers, all of which caused irreparable damage to the brand.”