Ina Fried

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Carrier Start-Up Ting Will Soon Let You Use Your Old Sprint Phone

A whole new crop of start-up cellphone companies are making a similar pitch to would-be customers — namely, that they can deliver lower monthly bills.

However, companies like Ting and Republic Wireless, like the prepaid carrier brands, generally have a similar catch: One typically has to buy a new phone at full price before the savings start.

Ting, though, says it will soon be able to offer a way around that. Starting sometime in the fourth quarter of the year, Ting plans to let its customers use any Sprint phone along with its low-cost service. Customers will pay the same rate as those who buy new phones, with Ting’s pitch being that its customers pay only for the texts, voice and data they use.

Being able to support older phones should allow even more savings, CEO Elliot Noss told AllThingsD.

There are a lot of phones out there that are being passed down or sold cheaply that were high-end models just a couple of years ago.

“There’s incredible value there,” Noss said. “$50 or $100 gets what two years ago was a top-of-the-line phone,” Noss said.

Ting, which is owned by Canadian Internet service wholesaler Tucows, hasn’t said how many customers the service has. However, Noss acknowledged that it is not yet enough to be material to the publicly traded company, which has annual revenue of about $100 million.

“Things have been very good for us,” Noss said, noting that the customers the company does have produce $100 to $150 per year in profits, while still saving them money compared to what they would have spent on a traditional cellphone plan. “We’re very pleased.”

Noss said he is pleased to see the innovation coming not just from his company, but also from Sprint and the other start-up carriers.

“We certainly see our competition as AT&T and Verizon,” he said, noting there are 300 million U.S. cellular subscribers, and only a tiny fraction of those are on nontraditional carriers. “We think we all can learn from each other.”

As for being able to accept the used Sprint phones, Noss said he sees an even bigger opportunity down the road. Eventually, he said, he expects Sprint to find a way to allow former Verizon phones onto its network.

“I think for both Sprint and for Ting, this is really just the warm-up,” Noss said.

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