Helio, an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) on Sprint’s network, was operational for exactly four years from May 2006 to May 2010. The company was originally formed as a 50/50 joint venture between South Korean wireless operator SK Telecom and American Internet service provider EarthLink. However, amidst increasing losses, Earthlink stopped its funding to the JV, and the company was sold off to rival MVNO Virgin Mobile for $39 million in mid-2008. The following year, Sprint acquired Virgin Mobile in a $483 million deal, and the Helio brand was eventually phased out in May, 2010. Now, after an absence of five years, Helio is back, and this time around, it is backed by South Korean telecommunications firm, UBI Telecom. The company has announced it will operate on Sprint, with a roaming agreement with Verizon, in order to offer greater network access to its subscribers during their sojourns outside the company’s service areas.
The basic plan for Helio’s prepaid service will cost customers $29 per month including taxes and fees, and bring unlimited voice, texts and 2G data. The speeds however, will be capped at 128 Kbps (16 KB/s), according to a posting on the company’s official website. The company however says, the first month’s service will be free without any obligations for customers willing to give it a trial run. As part of its BYOD program, Helio will activate its services on unlocked devices as long as they are compatible with Sprint’s network. The company also offers some older smartphones on its website including Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S4.
Helio is slated to offer another service from August this year, which will come without any data allocation, presumably for consumers who’d rather use Wi-Fi, and for those who’re still not used to the concept of using data on their smartphones. According to the company’s website, that particular plan will also come with unlimited talk and text, but pricing details have not yet been made public by the company. The MVNO space has seen a lot of action of late, with even Google jumping onto the bandwagon with its much talked about Project Fi. With competition in the wireless space stronger than it has ever been, it remains to be seen how successful Helio will be in its second coming.