With 286K subscribers, MVNO Ting looking at ways to evolve and expand

Ting, a seven-year-old MVNO that today counts more than a quarter of a million customers, said it is now looking to expand its distribution and potentially tweak its service and pricing in response to the changing dynamics of the industry.

“We are at a really interesting moment in the life of Ting mobile. I would say we got to our first 286,000 subscribers (on 165,000 accounts) by zigging where everyone else was zagging,” Ting’s Michael Goldstein wrote in response to questions from FierceWireless. Goldstein pointed to Ting’s services, including its pay-for-what-you-use pricing and its focus on online sales and bring-your-own-device activations, as examples of the company’s early innovations. “In each of those, we are thinking about whether it is time to zag just a bit (partly because the industry has evolved and become more competitive, partly because we are leaping from our hyper-rational, frugal, capable early adopters to an early majority).”

Indeed, Ting—owned by internet domain company Tucows—may be working to expand its presence in the U.S. mobile market. According to reports in The Telegraph and elsewhere, and subsequently noted by Wave7 Research, Ting purchased the U.S. customer base of a U.K.-based MVNO, The People's Operator (TPO), for roughly $1 million. Ting’s Goldstein declined to comment on those reports.

Nonetheless, it may well signal an increased interest by Ting to tackle the U.S. mobile market. And Ting’s Goldstein said the company is considering a variety of mechanisms to do so.

“We are talking to customers and prospects about price to try to understand the most desirable balance between value and simplicity,” Goldstein wrote. “Maybe we end up with some combination of unlimited and pay for what you use. Maybe there is some opportunity to still address confusion and game playing in the industry like throttling or silly fees for things like tethering or other kinds of usage.”

Goldstein said that, after focusing mainly on online sales, Ting is working to expand its brick-and-mortar presence in locations like Best Buy and Target. He said the company is also considering expanding and simplifying handset sales in order to ensure that customers who arrive at Ting via a bring-your-own-device scenario can then stay with the company by upgrading their phone through a Ting phone store.

“None of those are particularly innovative,” Goldstein wrote, pointing to some of the efforts Ting is considering. “In fact, they are largely about us conforming just a bit to what millions of customers want (and, of course, always looking for ways to do these things in ways that are better, fairer and more usable).”

Ting is one of a number of MVNOs that offers service in the U.S. market. Such companies essentially piggyback on the networks of major wireless operators like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint (Ting uses Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s networks). Other major MVNOs in the market include Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile, Google’s Project Fi, America Movil’s TracFone and Straight Talk, and Consumer Cellular.

Not surprisingly, such companies could be affected by the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. Ting’s Elliot Noss addressed that issue during Tucows' quarterly conference call with investors in May. “I will inevitably get questions from shareholders of how our Ting Mobile Sprint merger affects our Ting Mobile business. I want to take this opportunity to [officially] ... announce that I have no idea,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks. “I think operating Ting on a larger faster network would help us better compete with AT&T and Verizon. We think ‘New T-Mobile’ should be just as enthusiastic with the wholesale business as old Sprint and T-Mobile.”

However, Noss noted that it’s unclear exactly how major consolidation in the wireless market would ultimately affect Ting, explaining that it could either increase competition or reduce competition.

Article updated July 16 to clarify several sentences.