Ting: Our average smartphone customer pays just $26 a month

If you’re still not convinced that signing up for a mobile virtual network operator would save you money compared to the big carriers, then Ting just laid it out for you in black and white.

In a blog post this week, the Tucows-owned MVNO revealed its customers’ average monthly bills for the month of July. For a single smartphone user it came out to $26 a month, and for a family of four smartphone users the bill totaled $71 a month.

Source: Ting

Source: Ting

That $26-a-month customer is making 250 minutes of voice calls and sending or receiving 365 text messages each month, but he or she isn’t exactly racking up multiple gigabytes of mobile data. The average monthly data consumption for a single-user plan on Ting was 314 MB a month and 865 MB for a four-phone plan. Cisco Systems’ latest Visual Networking Index puts average smartphone consumption in the U.S. at 1.38 GB per month.

But Ting, like most MVNOs, tends to attract budget-minded customers, many looking for much more conservative data plans. Also, as Michael Goldstein, Tucows VP of marketing, points out in the post, Ting’s 70,000 customers lean heavily on home, office and public hotspot Wi-Fi, minimizing the amount of data they consume over cellular networks. If that same $26-a-month Ting customer were to consume 2 GBs of month of 4G data, his or her bill would still wind up being $49 a month, on par with the pricing that many MVNOs are charging for their data-heavy plans.

Ting, which uses Sprint’s CDMA and LTE networks, is embracing a billing concept that I think should be adopted more widely in the U.S. Instead of charging you for a big bundle of services you might never use — for instance, unlimited voice and SMS — Ting only charges you what for use. So if you use a lot of data but make few calls or send few text messages, your bills reflect it.

The problem with most mobile plans today is that they only reward people who use their service in massive quantities. If you really are spending your evenings chatting on the phone, your days in constant SMS communications with friends and downloading gobs of video over the cellular network, then an all-you-can-eat voice and text and 4GB data plan makes sense for you. But if you’re one of millions of Americans using any or all of those services more sparingly on the big carriers, you’re likely still paying close to the same rates as those hard-core smartphone users.