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Prepaid, no-contract wireless service is a hot play right now and almost every major carrier is getting deeper into the action. AT&T, which has its own prepaid arm called Aio Wireless, plans to take that service (which has only been available in a few locations) nationwide next month, promising to make prepaid competition between the carriers even more interesting.

why-aioWhile most carriers have had prepaid options for a while, both the plans and the devices weren’t all that great. Sprint’s Virgin Mobile push showed us that we could, in fact, get some great plans without a contract, and T-Mobile’s “unCarrier” transformation gave us more options for buying our phones. T-Mobile’s separation of phone payment and plan payment actually means you’ll pay less per month once your phone is paid off — a perk you don’t get as a post-paid customer.

AIO Wireless looks to be going the Virgin Mobile route, which means customers will have to pony up the full, unsubsidized cost of their phone and then choose a plan that costs between $40 and $70 a month. AIO isn’t offering any unlimited 4G data like Virgin Mobile or T-Mobile, but data is technically unlimited — throttling occurs after you go over your high-speed allowance. It’s not clear to what degree your speeds will drop, but we’ll keep an eye out for more info on that.

As far as devices go, AIO Wireless has you pretty well covered. The iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4 are present, along with some mid-tier smartphone options that span iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The plans aren’t half bad, either. The $40 plan, called Basic, works with basic phones only. The $55 Smart plan tacks on 2 GB of high-speed data, and the Pro plan at $70 bumps that high-speed data allowance up to 7 GB. And if you want an additional GB added on to your plan, it’ll only cost you $10.

When you compare AT&T’s plans to AIO’s plans, you’ll probably be a bit confused. How is it that the same company is behind both brands, yet the prepaid service seems to be getting the better deals? I don’t quite know how to explain it either. All I can do is point to Sprint and Virgin Mobile, where a similar dynamic plays out. Virgin Mobile’s plans are head and shoulders above Sprint’s, yet Sprint owns that company. You’d think that, by going under contract, your loyalty would get you the best deals. In reality, it’s as though you’re being punished for your subsidized phone and post-paid billing. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Will you be jumping on the AIO Wireless bandwagon once it becomes available nationwide? Drop us a line below with your answer.

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