AT&T launches new prepaid service under 'Aio Wireless' brand

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) launched a new prepaid brand, Aio Wireless, promising a simplified, no-contract experience and opening up a new front in the prepaid battle with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS).

ZTE Velox AIO Wireless

Aio Wireless also offers tablets, including the ZTE Velox

FierceWireless had previously reported that AT&T would launch new prepaid services under the "All In One" brand June 15, and "Aio" appears to be the fruits of that effort. The Aio plans all include unlimited voice and messaging as well as unlimited data (speeds throttled after specific thresholds) on AT&T's HSPA+ network, and range in price from $35 up to $70.

Aio said customers can expect to get downlink rates of up to 4 Mbps. Aio spokeswoman Kathy Van Buskirk said the company did not have anything to discuss regarding support for LTE. AT&T expects to cover 270 million POPs with LTE by the end of this year.

The Aio plans are initially launching in select stores in Houston, Orlando and Tampa, with additional stores in these three markets opening in the coming weeks. The company plans to expand to additional markets across the U.S. later this year but did not indicate which markets or when it would do so.

Currently, the plans vary from market to market in small ways. For example, the smallest Aio plan in Houston includes unlimited voice, texting and 100 MB of data for $35 per month. The $40 Aio basic plan is for feature phones only and includes unlimited voice, messaging and 250 MB of data before throttling; the $55 Aio Smart plan is available for smartphones and includes unlimited voice and texting and up to 2 GB of data before throttling; and $70 Aio Pro adds all of that plus up to 7 GB of data before throttling. Aio also offers tablet plans that includes 250 MB of data before throttling for $15 per month.

Customers can bring their own unlocked devices to Aio for service or choose from a range of smartphones and feature phones, including the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 620 for $179.99, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4/4S for $349.99 for refurbished models to as high as $499.99 for new models, the Samsung Galaxy Express for $249.99, the Samsung Galaxy Amp for $99.99, the ZTE Prelude for $49.99. Aio also offers feature phones, including the Samsung Denim for $29.99 and the ZTE Altair for $49.99.

Interestingly, AT&T is keeping its own prepaid GoPhone brand in addition to running Aio. Van Buskirk said GoPhone and Aio target different customers. 

"A large percentage of GoPhone customers use the service with a daily or weekly plan, and are looking for an AT&T branded service and device," she told FierceWireless. "We believe Aio provides a new opportunity to provide wireless service to value-conscious consumers with no annual contract, who are looking for unlimited talk/text/data plans, a wide array of devices and who would purchase through the Aio distribution channels. Aio's three plans are also prepaid plans, but offer unlimited monthly talk/text/data plans with no-annual contract through Aio distribution channels and are priced based on the amount of access to 4G data speeds included with the plan (as outlined above). The GoPhone plans include a by-the-minute and by-the-day plan, in addition to pay-as-you go monthly plans, and are generally priced according to the amount of talk, text and data that is included with each plan."

Other carriers aren't standing still on prepaid. Verizon recently launched a $35 prepaid plan for feature phones that includes unlimited mobile Web and texting and 500 calling minutes. And in February, Verizon effectively cut the price of its high-end prepaid smartphone plan from $80 to $70. Further, T-Mobile is working to promote its new "uncarrier" service that includes unlimited voice and texting and 2 GB of data for $60 per month. Sprint continues to support a range of prepaid plans through its Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile brands.  

For more:
- see this Aio site
- see this release
- see this PhoneScoop article
- see this Nokia post

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