A new quasi-MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) is set to start offering its no-contract, unlimited rate plans in the US, using AT&T’s network as its surrogate communications backbone. Unified Technologies Group has announced that they will be offering all-you-can-eat wireless service under the “Zer01″ carrier brand – just don’t go calling them an MVNO. Instead, Zer01 prefers to be called a “VoIP carrier.” Whereas traditional MVNO’s use another carrier’s wireless infrastructure and leases network time at wholesale rates, Zer01 will be using their own VoIP infrastructure to ferry wireless communications and data.
Zer01 will be launching its network during CTIA Las Vegas 2009, which kicks off April 1. The not-quite-an-MVNO carrier will offer no-contract wireless plans that boast unlimited voice minutes and unlimited data usage for just $69.95 a month. An extra $10 per month gets you unlimited international calling to no less than 40 countries. In lieu of requiring a contract, Zer01 will charge a one-time $30 activation fee to new customers.
Zer01 says subscribers may bring their own GSM phone for use on the network. Otherwise, Zer01 offers three HTC smartphones – the HTC Touch Diamond, HTC Touch 3G and HTC TyTn II (AT&T Tilt).
Wireless carriers have been pushing the limits of how cheap they’re willing to go with their unlimited wireless services. Boost Mobile recently lowered the floor with a $50 unlimited plan that gives value-wary customers unlimited voice, messaging, and data usage without requiring a contract. MetroPCS followed suit with a new BlackBerry rate plan that offers unlimited voice, messaging, internet, MMS, and BlackBerry email (BIS) for just $60 a month. Alltel recently announced a $40 unlimited 3G laptop data plan offered to Alltel customer with family plans.
Zer01 uses some sort of proprietary VoIP technology to ferry communications, which supposedly allows the carrier to keep costs low. “Zer01 Mobile is not a new mobile virtual network operator (MNVO). We are a new communications carrier. For many years now, we’ve been developing our VMC Technology and I’m looking forward to premiering our new Zer01 Mobile service at the upcoming CTIA Wireless event,” says Ben Piilani, CEO, Zer01 Mobile. It’s unclear how reliable Zer01′s network will prove to be.
The entrance of Zer01 onto the unlimited wireless playing field highlights the industry’s gradual move to lower-cost, all-you-can-eat wireless services. The trend should give consumers enough choice to foster continued competition, which should hopefully drive costs even lower.
Zer01 has clarified its service as a VoIP carrier. Zer01 bypasses carrier-switched networks and routes all network communications through a VoIP system and to a virtual private network that accesses the internet, allowing the carrier to provide cheap, truly unlimited voice and data service.