Review: Wing Alpha (MVNO)

Introduction

Let’s face it. Cell phone carriers have gotten pretty bad over the years. Many familes today spend huge portions of their monthly income to have mobile telecommunications devices and service–and I’m not even talking about getting the latest iPhone or whatever. I’m just talking about an average phone with your average plan (including some amount of data, of course). But beyond that, there have always been folks looking to save a buck or two.

These types of people have spawned a demand for a slew of Mobile Virtual Network Operators who lease space from the primary wireless carriers (such as Verizon, AT&T, etc.) and resell it under a different name for a lower price. Some of the oldest and most popular MVNOs include Tracfone and metroPCS. But with an uptick in the demand for more affordable cell service, many other options have come into existence. You may have heard of MVNOs such as Ting, Tello, Mint, PureTalk, Twigby, h2o Wireless, Reach Mobile, Cricket, US Mobile, Red Pocket Mobile, Xfinity Mobile, and so many more.

Like many other people, I went looking for a MVNO due to the cost savings. I decided to give Wing Mobile (also known as Wing Alpha or Wing Tel) a try. I had seen their advertisements online quite a bit, and the comments on their posts were always highly positive with very few negative comments. I figured it was worth a shot. Let’s have a look at my experience! If you’re just looking for a quick thumbs up or thumbs down for Wing, scroll to the end of the article.

Signing Up

Signing up with Wing was incredibly easy. I headed over to their website and started a chat session with one of their representatives after looking around for a bit. I explained that I wanted to see about signing up to try their service, that I was currently with Verizon, and that I would want to keep my existing phone number and bring my device. I also explained that I would need a Verizon-based plan as they’re the only infrastructure in our area of rural Nevada that has good coverage. While AT&T is also in the area, they do not have adequate coverage for where I live and where I travel.

The representative was friendly and helpful. After providing the IMEI of my device so they could check for compatibility, the representative confirmed that my device would be compatible with their Verizon-based network and that they would be able to port my existing phone number in. They even said if I had remaining device payments I could submit the final bill for the device to them and they’d take over the payments, and the amount would simply be added to my monthly amount due for their service. It sounded pretty good. Maybe too good, but I’d have to wait and see.

The next thing I know, I get a notification from Verizon that another carrier was porting my phone number in. The representative said that I would receive my free SIM card in the mail within a week and when it arrived to contact them via chat or phone again and they would help me get activated. All in all, signing up took less than 10 minutes, even with me asking questions along the way.

Week 1

Alright. The SIM card arrived with a nice little welcome card. Not bad. I chatted back into their website and provided my information and said I had a SIM card I needed to activate. The representative walked me through providing them the ICCID (or SIM card number), powering off the device, putting the new SIM card in, and powering on the device.

I was able to make a phone call, and receive text messages. All seemed well. Activation only took 5 minutes! Our chat session disconnected and I went about my day. It wasn’t long before I realized I did not have 4G data–or data at all, for that matter. A new chat session was opened and I was directed to call a phone number for customer support. When I called, I got the technical support for Clearway–an entirely different MVNO. Okay…that’s odd. Is Wing a reseller of a reseller or something? I never got an answer on that. Anyway, the Clearway representative got my data working by adding an APN (Access Point Name) in my mobile network settings. Things seemed alright for a bit.

I’m a member of several group texts (a friends one, a family one, etc.). On the evening of the first day, it became apparent that I was missing some messages, receiving others, and could not send or receive picture messages (MMS messages) at all. I called the Clearway number back and was told that they could not support me because I was not a Clearway customer; I’d need to contact Wing. Huh. That’s weird. So after some digging I find the customer support phone number for Wing and give them a call. Cue me spending the next couple of hours on the phone being transferred between multiple representatives, getting disconnected a few times, etc. After a long and frustrating support session, I finally am able to call, text, use data, and send/receive picture messages. Whew. I chalked the issues up to being with an “off brand” carrier, rather than paying for the convenience of a “name brand” carrier, and went about my business.

Week 2

Week 2 was worse than Week 1. At the beginning of the week, I suddenly couldn’t do anything. No calls. No texts. No data. Of course, this also happened to be the week that I had some very important calls coming in. Over the course of the next five (5) days, I would spend nearly 20 hours on the phone or in chat sessions with Wing representatives, trying to get my phone service situation sorted out.

I should make it clear that I have never felt more/true rage than when dealing with Wing during my second week of “having their service” (which I didn’t really have, because I couldn’t use it).

After spending the equivalent of a part-time employee’s work week on the phone with more than 10 Wing representatives–who each told me an entirely different story/excuse for the situation–I finally got a representative who checked a couple of different things and then told me that my phone was not compatible with their Verizon network. What? I explained that when I signed up they checked my IMEI and make/model and verified that it was compatible with their Verizon-based network. The representative said “I’m not sure why they would tell you that. We don’t offer CDMA-based Verizon service in your area. You’d need to be on our AT&T service if you want to keep the phone you have.” To which my response was frustrated and direct. I re-explained that I could only have Verizon service where I lived due to the coverage and the representative then tried to sell me a phone that I already said I didn’t want to buy.

After another hour it was clear that I wasn’t going to be getting anywhere, so I told them I would need to be put in contact with whomever could cancel my service, port my number back out to Verizon, and who I could talk to about refunding my first month’s payment since I was unable to use their service due to their dishonesty.

Luckily, they were immediately able to port my number so I could go back to Verizon. Unfortunately, they refused to refund my payment as “it’s a prepaid service, so we don’t do refunds.” While I understand the concept of prepaid accounts, I prepaid for service. Service I couldn’t use due to their dishonesty. So to me, it felt like they not only lied to me, but stole from me as well.

Oh well. Whatever. I was done. With my number ported out, I opened a Verizon account again and got phone service back, putting my attempt to work with Wing to bed and leaving the bad experience in the dust.

Or so I thought.

1 Month Later

Much to my surprise, a month after I had cancelled my service with Wing and gotten back on Verizon, Wing bills my debit card $55 for monthly service. Monthly service I no longer had (not like I ever had it anyway).

I spent an hour on the phone between two different representatives to get to the bottom of why they were still stealing money from me.

The representative explained, “Well, it looks like we billed you because you had AutoPay enabled on your account.” To which I explained that I shouldn’t have an account and that I cancelled my service a month ago. She had me log into my online account and lo and behold, there’s my debit card number with “AutoPay” next to it. Interestingly enough, there was no way to remove my debit card number from my account/profile.

I eventually got the representative to remove the method of payment from my account on their end–but they only did that once I asked for a contact in their legal department. I logged into the online account to verify the method of payment was gone (and it was). With that, I told them to be sure they closed my account this time, and laid the issue to rest.

Pros

Quick and easy sign-up

Quick and easy activation

Cost savings–theoretically

Cons

Poor communication

Dishonest representatives

Snake-oil sales tactics

No way to remove your payment information from your account

Conclusion

Was it worth it trying to save a few bucks by switching from Verizon to Wing? Absolutely not. I regret it tremendously and could not recommend Wing/Wing Alpha/Wing Tel/Wing Mobile to anybody in good conscience. That is, unless you want to be exceedingly frustrated, lied to, stolen from, and not have mobile phone service. Despite no longer having their service, I keep receiving sponsered ads and posts from them on Facebook. I often left a short, honest feedback about my story (a couple sentences), until they blocked me from commenting on their content. Apparently that’s how they keep up their appearance of being “highly recommended.” Yikes.

Have you tried a MVNO? How was your experience? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Author: griffethbarker

Griff is a manager of IT, consultant of IT and management, and continuous student of organizational development. His hobbies and interests include games of all types (video, board, dice, card, tabletop, etc.) as well as listening to music, photography, and writing. Find him on LinkedIn!

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