Anyone remember Helio? It was a mobile virtual network operator using Sprint’s network that offered wireless voice, messaging and data products and services to customers in the continental United States beginning on May 2, 2006. Well although it exploded in market, it fizzled out just a few years later! However we hear its back as a new wireless reseller with a new backer and a new offering: a $29-a-month plan that features unlimited voice calls, text messages and slow data.
For reasons unclear, Ubi Telecom, a mobile company that focuses on Korean-speaking Americans, is betting that Helio can make a successful comeback. The zombie carrier will operate on Sprint’s network, just like before, and will also have a roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless. Ubi also seems to believe that customers are nostalgic for the days of dial-up Internet, because Helio will cap data speeds at 128kbps — so you can wave goodbye to any thoughts of streaming music or video.
Helio was one of the poster children of the age of the wireless reseller, or mobile virtual network operator. It was the notion that any brand or company could jump into the mobile business buying, leasing and reselling wireless service from the major carriers. But once it launched their own branded wireless services, the firm struggled to convince consumers that it had more to offer than a Verizon or Sprint. After launching in 2006, Helio was sold to Virgin Mobile just two years later, with Virgin shutting down the brand and service in 2010.
However, now that it is back, on the hardware front, you can either sign up with your own phone (limited to devices compatible with compatible with Sprint, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Assurance Wireless), or buy one from their rather outdated selection that includes a Galaxy S4 for $299, Galaxy S III for $249, Galaxy Epic 4G for $49, or a Kyocera Kona flip phone for $89! Helio also offers a free month’s service for customers to test out.
Regardless of their slow speeds, Helio may provide a viable alternative for those looking for basic and super cheap service. Let’s see how long the service stays this time around.