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August 25, 2009: We've updated this page to reflect changes to the carrier.
As the first Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) carrier in the United States, Virgin Mobile has led the way in aggressively marketing its prepaid service to the youth market. Its phones are sold in many retail locations and online. As of 2009, Virgin Mobile is now fully owned by Sprint Nextel after a $248 million buy-out.
In 2008, Virgin Mobile bought Helio, another MVNO, and merged the two operations. It inherited Helio's all-in and a la carte contract plans as well as all the Helio handsets. Helio was a joint venture between U.S.-based Earthlink and Korea-based SK Telecom. Its target demographic skewed toward the young and upwardly mobile. Helio phones typically come with EV-DO support, GPS, and seamless integration with social networking services such as Facebook and MySpace.
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