Vale, Aio Wireless

April 29, 2014

Recently, Aio Wireless, an AT&T-owned budget carrier, merged with Cricket Wireless. In fact, the first phase of the merger has already begun: Aio will be shedding its name in favor of the more well-known brand, Cricket. Pretty much everything else about Cricket will be going away, including the fact that it uses Sprint’s network. AT&T’s network is vastly superior, both because of the technology it uses (GSM), and having a significantly larger blanket of LTE.

Mergers are as American as apple pie. Since 2011, it’s been a tangled web of acquisitions. AT&T was blocked from purchasing T-Mobile by the federal government, while Japanese carrier Softbank bought Sprint, which wants to buy T-Mobile, which recently purchased MetroPCS.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the carriers continually seek to better their positions in the market. Sprint has a laundry list of MVNOs and other carriers using its network: Virgin, Boost, Ting, it’s own prepaid option, and Cricket. AT&T will now have a well-known budget carrier under its belt, which will help it compete with the likes of T-Mobile.  But due to the merger, Cricket will eventually cease CDMA operations.

This turn of events carries with it some implications for Cricket customers, because they will eventually be forced to buy a new phone. Older phones typically do not have hybrid CDMA/GSM radios, so most Cricket phones are incompatible with the network switch. Luckily, I joined Aio in February because of frustration with T-Mobile’s network. T-Mobile’s LTE was fast and the super-secret $30 plan was great for a college student’s budget, but I found that I would lose the signal in most buildings at RIT. Aio’s plan offered a better network and unlimited talking for not much more dosh. That’s the beauty of contract-free, unlocked phones: if you don’t like the service, get rid of it. Aio is/was a great option because the value of the discounted rate of using the second-best wireless network in the country is unmatched.

It's almost as if this is directly targeted towards my demographic!

It’s almost as if this were directly targeted towards my demographic!

And now it is a bittersweet goodbye to Aio. All hail the royal Cricket name. Kind of. I’ll miss the brand. The colors, the name, the website, the pretty letterhead…It’s a much more desirable brand identity than Cricket’s. I guess it doesn’t matter as long as Aio’s beast-mode $45 plan stays. That thing is schaweet.

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