AIO Wireless was launched by AT&T this week as an answer to T-Mobile’s “UNcarrier” campaign. AIO will be a prepaid carrier (similar to a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO) that runs on AT&T’s network. AT&T’s AIO can be thought of as the equivalent of Boost Mobile to Sprint or Solavei to T-Mobile.
AT&T has been known for its excellent network, but the experience comes at a rather hefty price. I talked with an AT&T representative recently and she told me that the lowest off-contract agreement available would be 3GB of 4G data for $85-$90 a month. AT&T’s bid in the prepaid market will provide more affordable prices for excellent data while granting access to the nation’s largest data network.
AIO Wireless Plans and Prices
AIO has four prepaid phone plans available for the consumer. First on the list is the AIO Basic Plan, one that comes with unlimited voice, text, and data for $40 a month. While the AIO Basic Plan data comes with unlimited web, AT&T will throttle your data after it reaches 250MB. You will still have data, but you will likely live on 2G EDGE data once your data speed is throttled. The AIO Basic Plan is only for feature phones (flip phones).
Next on the list is the AIO Smart Plan, one that is designed for smartphones. The plan includes unlimited voice, text, and data for $55 a month. Your data speed will be throttled on this plan once you reach the plan’s 2GB data limit. This plan is similar to Verizon’s largest data plan, but is more affordable: Verizon’s 2GB plan costs $70 while AIO’s costs $55).
For those who are data-hungry users, AIO Wireless provides its AIO Pro Plan, including unlimited voice, text, and data for $70 a month. For Pro users, AIO will give you 7GB of data each month before throttling your data and slowing your speed to 2G EDGE. Still, 7GB of data is as good as it gets with prepaid carriers — excluding T-Mobile, of course. While unlimited data is a good thing, as I have been a happy recipient of T-Mobile’s $70 unlimited 4G data plan on my iPhone 5, I realize that others do not need unlimited data. Who can use it all anyway? 7GB is more than enough data for many individuals who are constantly surrounded by WiFi.
If you want to use your tablet with AIO Wireless, you can sign up for AIO’s “AIO Tablet” plan. This plan will give you 250MB of data only. This plan will cost you somewhere around $15 a month. Although AT&T has a formidable wireless network, you can get a FreedomPop data plan that grants you 5GB of data for only $35 a month. You can get as much as 10GB of 4G data on Sprint’s WiMax network for $60 a month with FreedomPop.
If you want to stay with AT&T, their current domestic data plan comes with 5GB of 4G data (HSPA+) for $50 each month. While these prices may not suit everyone with a data plan, there is something for every consumer in the market today. If you are a frugal consumer who doesn’t need as much data as most data-hungry users, 250MB may appeal to you. For me, however, 250MB wouldn’t last but a few hours tops.
What You Should Know About AIO Wireless
AIO is a formidable attempt by AT&T to enter the prepaid market and compete with the likes of T-Mobile. At the same time, AIO is in its preliminary stages, so read the following before you decide to plan your future with the MVNO in mind.
First, AIO Wireless will only grant you 3G HSPA+ data for your prepaid phone or tablet plan. This means that you will not experience 4G wireless data as you will with T-Mobile or an MVNO such as FreedomPop. HSPA+ has been known to be faster in some areas than 4G wireless, so HSPA+ may work out for you. This still something you need to know if you are debating between AIO’s prepaid plans and T-Mobile’s. AT&T will reserve its 4G LTE data for its off-contract (as opposed to prepaid) and contract customers.
Next, AIO is an experiment with the nation’s largest phone carrier. In other words, AIO Wireless is being launched in only Houston, Texas, Tampa, Florida, and Orlando Florida. While AIO announced earlier this week that it would launch in three more cities this summer, it still has a ways to go before AIO turns nationwide. The carrier expects to debut AIO Wireless for one year before the prepaid brand goes national.
AT&T’s strategy is a cautious one, but one that you should be aware of. If AIO is not successful and the numbers look dismal, AT&T may end the experiment altogether. So many customers cherish AT&T’s wireless network but want competitive pricing; AT&T’s AIO Wireless looks to not disappoint.
Two other things about AIO Wireless are significant. First, there is the BYOD principle that AIO will endorse, where customers who want to bring their iPhone over from T-Mobile (for example) will be allowed to do so. If you choose to purchase your device from AIO, you will pay full price for your smartphone (since prepaid carriers do not subsidize phone prices over two-year contracts).
Last but not least is flat-rate pricing: when you agree to $70, you will pay $70 — and not a penny more. Flat-rate pricing is made available by the fact that AIO will not cover any costs towards your smartphone when you sign up for its service. If AIO does not cover some portion of your phone price, it will not charge you taxes and fees to recover the money it spent on your phone. As a result, you get to enjoy your phone service at no extra cost.
For more information, you can visit AIO Wireless at http://www.aiowireless.com.