By: Gigaom
Multilevel marketing MVNO Flash Wireless uses Wi-Fi to expand data reach
ACN's wireless arm Flash may not have the most compelling rates today, but with a new deal with Devicescape it may be setting the stage for cheaper data plans in the future.

Flash Wireless has been around since 2011, but you would be excused if you haven’t heard of it. The mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is the U.S. mobile arm of ACN International, a multilevel marketing company — think Amway or Avon — that specializes in telecom, satellite TV and energy services. Chances are the name Flash Wireless won’t come up in conversation unless you’re being recruited by one of ACN’s many “independent business owners.”

But ACN announced a deal with Devicescape on Tuesday that could make its rather plain-Jane mobile service plans much more attractive in the future. Flash will tap into Devicescape’s virtual network of 11 million hotspots. It’s the same approach that both Republic Wireless and U.S. Cellular to offload traffic off of 3G and 4G networks.

Currently Flash resells minutes, texts and data from both Verizon Wireless and Sprint, but its pricing is still higher than many MVNOs and budget carriers in the market. For instance it offers an unlimited plan, including voice, data and domestic and international SMS, on Sprint’s network for $60 a month, but if you tap into Sprint’s LTE network the cost goes up to $70 a month. Most MVNOs and even prepaid operators like MetroPCS far undercut those rates. Fellow multilevel marketing MVNO Solavei sells an unlimited plan for $50 a month.

But if ACN follows the lead of other carriers that have begun leaning on Wi-Fi to take over the data connection’s heavy lifting, Flash could find plenty more wiggle room in pricing. Republic is experimenting with a $19 monthly unlimited plan, defraying its costs by relying on customers’ home and business Wi-Fi connections, as well as Devicescape’s virtual network, to handle the bulk of its voice calling and data usage. Free Mobile is doing the same in France with its own 4-million node Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi image courtesy of Flickr user suttonhoo

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