Here, according to the ProjectVRM wiki, are the ideal characteristics of VRM tools:

  1. VRM tools are personal. As with hammers, wallets, cars and mobile phones, people use them as individuals,. They are social only in secondary ways.
  2. VRM tools help customers express intent. These include preferences, policies, terms and means of engagement, authorizations, requests and anything else that’s possible in a free market, outside any one vendor’s silo or ranch.
  3. VRM tools help customers engage. This can be with each other, or with any organization, including (and especially) its CRM system.
  4. VRM tools help customers manage. This includes both their own data and systems and their relationships with other entities, and their systems.
  5. VRM tools are substitutable. This means no source of VRM tools can lock users in

Note “mobile phones” in #1. Like a car or a wallet, a mobile phone is personal. Ir also supports our independence, helps us express intent, and is substitutable. Bearing all these things (and more) in mind, has come to market with the clear intent of doing the best it can to support customers’ VRM intentions.

Go down Joe Andrieu’s list of user driven services

  1. Impulse from the User
  2. Control
  3. Transparency
  4. Data Portability
  5. Service Endpoint Portability
  6. Self Hosting
  7. User Generativity
  8. Improvability
  9. Self-managed Identity
  10. Duty of Care

… and you’ll find that Ting comes about as close as any mobile phone company can come to respecting all those things.

Ting is an MVNO — a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. That means it operates as a phone company, but does not own facilities. Instead it re-sells the raw base offerings (minutes, texts, quantities of data) that it buys from a carrier with facilities. In this case, Sprint. It works everywhere in the U.S. that Sprint does, but it has a much more friendly and sensible set of offerings and pricings than any of the major mobile phone companies. It’s about as gimmick-free as you can get. That is, Ting is the very opposite of what Scott Adams in The Dilbert Future calls a “confusopoly.” Sez Scott,

A confusopoly is a situation in which companies pretend to compete on price, service, and features but in fact they are just trying to confuse customers so no one can do comparison shopping.

Cell [mobile] phone companies are the best example of confusopolies. The average consumer finds it impossible to decipher which carrier has the best deal, so carriers don’t have normal market pressure to lower prices. It’s a virtual cartel without the illegal part.

Ting is a VRM company. Its management and other personnel have been involved in many VRM discussions and events, and a number of VRM folk have been involved in Ting’s beta as well. Our family, for example. So far we’re loving it. The data service especially is surprisingly good. At our kid’s high school in rural New Hampshire, both voice and data service is pretty much perfect.

Here are some of the stories about the Ting launch that have hit so far:

Plus these from Zemanta: