The Tick Tock: What we know about the Virgin Mobile and Helio merger [Update]

Rumors surrounding the possible merger and/or acquisition between Virgin Mobile and Helio began surfacing in May. Shortly after this rumor circulated around the Web we learned that Helio’s Chairman Sky Dayton and VM’s CEO Dan Schulman met with Best Buy during CTIA. The following day SK Telecom, Helio’s biggest backer, sent out a release stating that they were, indeed, talking with Virgin Mobile. That all went down in May and everyone in the industry has been speculating since with both sides keeping their mouths shut.

Update after the jump

Just a few days ago the Financial Times reported that Virgin Mobile would absorb the Helio brand. As such, all Helio stores will shut their doors although we had heard the NYC store would stay open. It’s unclear what will happen to Helio’s employees, but it’s safe to say that most of them will be let go. The acquisition won’t go through until Q3, so the remaining Helio employees better start looking for a new gig ASAP if they haven’t already.

So what exactly does the merger mean for customers of Helio who have grown to love the hardware and features that Helio is best known for? Well, Virgin Mobile will be keeping all of those goodies in place. If you’ve seen any VM devices, you know they stink. VM is relatively boring and absorbing the technology Helio is best known for will certainly boost the MVNO’s status and appeal to a broader audience. That means future VM devices will include apps such as Google Maps with GPS, YouTube and MySpace… all of which Helio brought to the table before other carriers.

What about the Ocean 2? If you haven’t already figured it out by now, the Ocean 2 has been delayed over the last few months because of merger talks. It’s unclear when the device will actually launch, but it hasn’t been scrapped. Whether the device needs to go back to manufacturing to adjust the backlit Helio logo is unclear. VM just might release the device with some tag line like, “Virgin powered by Helio” to save money. But fear not, the Ocean 2 is still coming. The branding is unknown, though.

While I hate to see Helio dissolve, this is great for both brands. VM knows how to make money while Helio knows how to create technology that works and is appealing. It’s a win-win situation for the customers, but not so much for Helio employees. Let’s just hope VM doesn’t screw it up.

Q&A from Helio about the merger

HELIO and Virgin Mobile USA are teaming up to combine our strengths and deliver a better mobile experience. On June 27th Virgin Mobile USA announced that it had signed an agreement to acquire HELIO.

HELIO gains access to Virgin Mobile USA’s extensive distribution network and broad customer base, while Virgin Mobile USA gains access to HELIO’s exclusive, high-end devices and premium services. Both companies look forward to coming together to bring exciting prepaid and postpaid opportunities to their customers.
Q: What does this mean for current HELIO members? Can I still use my HELIO device, while keeping my HELIO service plan and number?

A: Current service plans will continue without interruption – it will be business as usual. HELIO members are at the center of this transaction and we’ll continue to bring them the innovative mobile services they’ve come to expect.
Q: Can new members still sign up for HELIO service?

A: Absolutely. HELIO will continue to offer exclusive, high-end devices and our innovative All-In plans.
Q: Will the HELIO brand be retained, or will everything migrate to Virgin Mobile USA?

A: Over time, we expect that all aspects of the customer experience will be integrated under the Virgin Mobile USA brand. Integration of the direct sales channel will begin immediately, and we expect that existing HELIO products and services will soon be offered through the Virgin Mobile USA website at
Q: So what’s next?

A: We’re excited by the possibilities our new, combined team offers. We have some big ideas, but as you can imagine, a little bit of housekeeping is in order before we share them. Stay tuned!
Q: Does this affect my current contract with HELIO in any way? When Virgin Mobile USA does acquire HELIO, can I end my current contract without paying an early termination fee (ETF)?

A: HELIO contracts remain in effect and unchanged by this transaction. HELIO members who wish to end their contract early will still be subject to an early termination fee (ETF).