AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) will launch its Aio Wireless prepaid brand on a nationwide basis starting in mid-September, giving rival T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) another competitor in the hot no-contract market.
AT&T has only launched the Aio brand in 11 mainly southern U.S. cities thus far, mostly in Florida, since the brand was introduced in May. Aio said customers in the Chicago area can currently activate Aio service online.
The brand is separate from AT&T's GoPhone prepaid brand and offers a wider range of devices. Aio's plans range from $40 for per month for unlimited voice, texting and 250 MB of high-speed data (speeds throttled after specific thresholds) up to $70 per month for unlimited voice, texting and 7 GB of high-speed data. In June AT&T added LTE service to the brand's offerings.
The launch seems designed to put more pressure on T-Mobile, which has moved aggressively in the prepaid market this year, especially since closing its merger with MetroPCS in May. T-Mobile is now juggling three brands: The main T-Mobile brand with its no-contract "Simple Choice" plans, the Metro brand and the GoSmart Mobile brand, another prepaid offering T-Mobile launched shortly before it completed its acquisition of MetroPCS.
In late July T-Mobile said it expanded the MetroPCS footprint by 50 million POPs. T-Mobile plans to continue to expand the MetroPCS footprint in the coming quarters.
T-Mobile has already taken its fight against Aio to the courtroom, accusing the AT&T brand of stealing T-Mobile's magenta color, which it has trademarked, in an effort to confuse and steal away T-Mobile customers. An Aio spokeswoman has said T-Mobile "needs an art lesson. Aio doesn't do magenta." (Aio's color scheme is, indeed, a deeper shade of purple than T-Mobile's magenta.)
The Aio expansion also seems to answer a question of what would happen to the brand as AT&T pursues its proposed acquisition of Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), which is not expected to close for another six to nine months. AT&T has said it plans to keep Leap's no-contract Cricket brand and offer Cricket customers access to AT&T's network. For now, AT&T seems content to use the Aio brand to expand its presence in the prepaid market.
Other major offerings in prepaid include Sprint's (NYSE:S) Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile brands, MVNO TracFone Wireless and other, smaller MVNOs.
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