Virgin Mobile USA announced yesterday that it plans to acquire Helio, a joint venture between SK Telecom and EarthLink, Inc. The move is expected to allow Virgin Mobile to add the Helio services and data application to its portfolio and gain it about 170,000 customers who spend an average of USD$80 per month, compared to the industry average of about USD$50. It also marks the first time that it will offer subscription plans. To date, Virgin Mobile USA had only offered prepaid plans focused primarily on voice and text services.
Helio had launched in May 2006 but has struggled to make inroads in the U.S. market. Helio had positioned itself as a purveyor of sophisticated data services such as Google maps with GPS, integrated You Tube and MySpace applications. While the services will be maintained, Virgin Mobile plans to phase out the Helio brand in favour of its own.
The deal is valued at USD$39 million and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2008.