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3G/HSPA

Hello Aio! AT&T Joins Prepaid MVNO Crowd

AT&T is trying its hand at MVNO enablement and making a big move into prepaid with the launch of unlimited provider Aio Wireless on its GSM network.

The contract-free service is live in Houston, Orlando and Tampa, and Aio plans to expand service across AT&T's HSPA+ footprint this year. Service plans range from $40 for 250MB of high-speed data, throttled at the cap, to $70 for 7GB. Tablets can jump on the HSPA+ network for $15 per month at 250MB, but there was no mention of LTE for the prepaid brand.

Aio is offering feature phones, mid-range smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 620 for $180 or Samsung Galaxy Express for $250 and the iPhone 5 for $650, as well as welcoming customers to bring their own unlocked device.

Our intrepid NYC reporter Dan Jones has also spotted ads for H20 Wireless, Locus Telecommunications (a subsidiary of KDDI)'s prepaid MVNO that uses unlocked phones to ride on AT&T and Clearwire's networks. Its plans start at $40 per month for 100MB of data. H20 has actually been around since 2011 but is stepping up its focus on the consumer market, likely because its customers' handset choices have been limited due new legislation around handset unlocking in the U.S.

Why this matters
The MVNO market has been picking up steam in the U.S. but Sprint and T-Mobile have been the main champions of wholesaling their networks. Aio represents AT&T's first big foray into both supporting an MVNO and offering a prepaid service separate from its GoPhone line.

Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless' approach to their networks differ from their competitors as well.While Sprint is letting seemingly any MVNO on its LTE network the same day it goes live, AT&T and Verizon are only opening up access to their legacy 3G networks, reserving LTE for their more lucrative contracted customers.

For more

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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