You likely haven’t heard of AIO Wireless yet, but AT&T hopes you will soon. Launching Thursday in three cities, AIO Wireless is a pre-paid and BYOD, or bring your own device, service provider and is a subsidiary of AT&T. The pre-paid nationwide service is now available in Houston, Tampa and Orlando with expectations of opening stores in various U.S. markets over the next year. AT&T still has its own branded GoPhone pre-paid service.
I took a quick look at the new AIO Wireless (pronounced “A-O”) website and the plans remind me a bit of T-Mobile’s new Simple Choice offerings. There are just a few choices, and each advertises unlimited talk, text and data, although some of that data is at “high speed” while some is not. AIO will reduce or throttle speeds once you reach the limit for your specific plan.
For $40 a month, 250 MB of data is served at high speed while $55 each month bumps the fast data capacity to 2 GB. A $70 plan boost the fast data cap to 7 GB. You can pay $15 for a tablet to get on the data network but only get 250 MB of high speed service. The press release mentions “4G download speeds of up to 4Mbs”, so the company isn’t offering LTE. Adding an additional gigabyte of fast data service or international calling is available for $10 a month.
Handset choices are as expected for a pre-paid provider, ranging from $30 feature phones to $50 low-end smartphones all the way up to various iPhone models, both at reduced (refurbished) prices to $649.99 for a new iPhone 5. You can also check to see if your own device is supported — I’d be surprised if an AT&T-compatible phone weren’t — but if you have an LTE radio in it, it won’t be used.
It seems that the two largest U.S. carriers, AT&T and Verizon, are following suit when it comes to their expensive investments in LTE network upgrades: Keep the fastest services for those on contract. This helps recoup the investment faster by nudging high speed data users to generally more expensive monthly plans that practically guarantee an income stream for two years.