Virgin Mobile reports 4.6 million subs


NEW YORK -- Virgin Mobile USA reported Thursday it finished 2006 with 4.6 million wireless subscribers, an increase of 600,000 since the last update in April by the youth-oriented cell phone provider.

The company, owned jointly by Sprint Nextel Corp. and Virgin Mobile Holdings PLC, also said its users sent or received 1.5 billion text messages during 2006, while downloading more than 14.8 million ringtones and 2.5 million mobile games and graphics.

Virgin, launched in July 2002, does not disclose operating data on a regular basis, making it more difficult to track its growth rate compared with a public company. It reported hitting 1.75 million subscribers in March 2004, 3 million in February 2005, and then 4 million in April 2006.

The company, based in Warren, N.J., also has said it turned its first operating profit in the first quarter of 2006. Virgin is the nation's biggest "virtual" wireless provider, which means it doesn't own a cellular network. Instead, it pays another carrier, in this case Sprint, to provide the wireless signal to its phones.