Ting gets the iPhone 6 as it prepares to launch its GSM service

Customers who subscribe to virtual operator Ting can now tap its unique pay-for-what-you-use plans with an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. On Wednesday Ting will began activating unlocked iPhones on its network as long as they’re optimized for Sprint network.

Ting is getting access to the iPhone 6 much sooner than it has previous generation Apple devices, but in a few weeks it won’t matter. Ting VP of Marketing Michael Goldstein said that the carrier would soon start supporting GSM phones, which means it will no longer be locked down to a specific carrier’s device. As soon as a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy or Google Nexus goes on sale, customers can activate them on Ting immediately.

Ting is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), a network-less carrier that buys voice, SMS and data capacity from an operator that owns its own wireless infrastructure. Since internet-domain registrar [company]Tucows[/company] launched Ting in 2012, it has used [company]Sprint[/company]’s CDMA and 4G networks exclusively, but in late February or early March it will start buying capacity from a GSM carrier as well, offering access to its 2G and 3G voice networks as well as its HSPA and LTE data networks. Goldstein wouldn’t reveal who that carrier is, but I’ve learned its [company]T-Mobile[/company], which is generally friendlier to MVNOs than the country’s other big GSM operator [company]AT&T[/company].

GSM support is a big boon for Ting because its customers have to jump through far fewer hoops to get the device they want. Previously customers had to use old Sprint phones off contract or track down a used device optimized for Sprint network and then request an unlock from the carrier. Sprint, however, placed restrictions on new devices, banning its MVNOs from offering the latest and greatest smartphones for a few months or a year after their debut. That policy changed this week as new rules went into effect that require operator to unlock devices as soon as they’re paid off.

With GSM, customers no longer have to meet a bunch of prerequisites or go through steps to get their Sprint phones unlocked and activated. They just have to slot a Ting SIM card into any unlocked GSM phone that supports T-Mobile frequencies, which is pretty much all GSM phones sold in the U.S. as well as many of the CDMA smartphones sold by Verizon and Sprint. Customers could also go also buy their devices directly from [company]Apple[/company] or [company]Google[/company], from third-party retailers like [company]Best Buy[/company] and [company]Amazon[/company], or pick up a used device on [company]eBay[/company].

In fact sending customers off to other marketplaces to buy their phones is preferable to Ting. It wants to be the service business, not the hardware business, Goldstein said.