He’s 22, just completed his junior year at NYU studying business, and tomorrow John Mardini is jumping into business in a big way, launching a mobile phone service competing with Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Mardini is the president of Voyager Telecom, parent of Voyager Mobile, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, which will offer nationwide coverage using Sprint’s 3G and 4G WiMax networks. The company, like Virgin Mobile and others, is what is called a mobile virtual network operator or MVNO. Initially, Voyager will sell phones to customers in 18 states, but Mardini says that list will grow in the weeks to come.
How does he plan to attract customers and compete? Chiefly through price. Voyager Mobile has two service plans. 19 dollars a month for unlimited talk and text and 39 dollars a month for unlimited talk, text and data. With some handsets, that will include mobile hotspot service as well. The company promises no contracts, credit checks or gimmicks. But having no contract means customers will pay more for phones than they do on carriers that require contracts to subsidize lower prices. The Samsung Optimus S is priced at 199 dollars while the Samsung Epic Galaxy S II is 550 dollars. Phones are being sold exclusively through the www.voyagermobile.com site, but Mardini says retailers will likely be added in the near future. The smartphone lineup will include both Android and Windows Mobile devices.
Why start a mobile phone service? Mardini says he was simply tired of paying what he says was a 200 dollar monthly bill on an undisclosed carrier. He assumes others feel the same way. The money to start the venture came largely through family members and the business will be run by a small group of employees. Much of the operation, Mardini says, is being outsourced. No matter how successful Voyager Mobile is in the coming months, he plans to return to NYU for the fall semester to complete his degree.
Initial states where Voyager Mobile phones will be available:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia