Viaero Wireless testing LTE service after Verizon rolls out XLTE in rural markets.

Employees at the regional carrier Viaero Wireless have confirmed to me that the network is either currently testing or soon will be testing LTE service, initially in the Colorado market.

I had previously speculated that the carrier might make such a move after moving to kill unlimited data, but ultimately dismissed it. However, with Verizon already nearing completion of its XLTE rollout, (XLTE is essentially LTE using separate frequencies for uplink and downlink), Viaero had everything to lose and nothing to gain by remaining on an outdated system. After all, Viaero only complete the move from 2G to 4G last year. For perspective, AT&T was already implementing 4G when the iPhone 3GS was launched around 6 years again, and Android and Windows Phone flagships were supporting LTE more often than not by 2012, with Apple waiting until the iPhone 5 to add an LTE radio to its fruit phones.

Viaero will likely add LTE service to cities and large towns first, to alleviate congestion of the 4G GSM network in those areas, and then upgrade its other towers afterwards.

Of course, there is a catch to this news. Not every device sold by the carrier supports LTE; just eight of the smartphones sold by the carrier have LTE radios, leaving a majority of their current offerings, and customers, on 4G.

And then there’s this to consider: Once unlimited data is gone, you’ll have a much faster connection on your phone to make up for it, therefore you’re much more likely to purchase data in 1GB increments as you chew through your allotted data.

Viaero Wireless testing LTE service after Verizon rolls out XLTE in rural markets.

Regional carrier Viaero Wireless quietly ends unlimited data. LTE inbound? Unlikely.

viaero-logoIf you live in Nebraska, you likely have heard of Cell One of Northeast Colorado, aka, Viaero Wireless. They have not yet publicly announced a recent change to their wireless plans, but they have been informing new and existing customers whose contracts are up for renewal of the impending change.

This change entails the upcoming termination of their unlimited data plans. Nearly all existing customers enjoy unlimited data on Viaero’s 4G (enhanced 3G or HSDPA) network, but this is changing for all customers in January 2016. Voice and text services are to remain as they currently are.

Current contract customers are being ushered onto Viaero’s new plan if they wish to retain unlimited data, which is basically the same as AT&T’s Next plan. You pay for your plan while renting a handset for an extra fee. You are free to upgrade once a year, and as a reward for renting a phone, your data remains unlimited. This may be a very expensive solution for customers who already own a phone, or wish to use a handset which the small carrier does not sell, such as a Blackberry Passport or a Windows Phone. (I had to buy a Lumia 1520 and have AT&T unlock it for me to use it on this carrier.)

If customers choose to use a handset which they own, buy one on contract, or don’t need much data, they may remain on the existing standard two year contract. Once you hit your data cap, you can purchase additional data or be throttled.

Viaero to Go customers, prepaid, will see unlimited data go away too, in January 2016. It’s currently unknown if these customers can pay for extra data once they hit their cap, or if they will face throttling or a complete loss of HTTP connectivity. Viaero Wireless does not go out of its way to cater to prepaid customers nor retain them. Most carriers don’t.

When the big four (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) rolled out LTE, they largely eliminated unlimited data, so it’s possible that the owner of Viaero’s towers (a company in Massachusetts from what I can tell via cell tower databases), or Viaero itself, may be preparing to add LTE to existing towers. Currently, Viaero Wireless does not offer LTE service, nor have they indicated that they are remotely interested in offering it. Viaero only completed an upgrade to HSDPA in 2014. Like all other carriers, they call HSDPA “4G” which I personally find to be misleading to consumers.

I don’t think we will be seeing LTE appear on Viaero’s towers anytime soon, but now that they are shifting gears away from stealing away Verizon’s LTE loving customers with unlimited data, it’s likely that generating a nice profit is taking priority over anything else. Perhaps they are hoping to become a lucrative takeover target for AT&T or T-Mobile in the nearterm.

Regional carrier Viaero Wireless quietly ends unlimited data. LTE inbound? Unlikely.

T-Mobile’s free 200MB SIM for Tablets, in a Phone

I happened to be in Denver this last Saturday when I spotted a T-Mobile store. I was using a Viaero Wireless SIM on a prepaid plan, so I only had voice and SMS services. Finding open WiFi in Denver was proving to be much harder than it had been in Baltimore, so I decided to venture into the T-Mobile store, recalling that they offer 200MB of data for free on a monthly basis if you bring in a tablet. I didn’t think a Lumia 1520 was quite a tablet, but what the hell, at six inches, why not try?

I walked into the store, it was fairly busy, but the manager was free to help me. He’s clearly one of those tech savvy guys, complete with a beard and thick rimmed glasses. I asked him if T-Mobile is still offering that free data plan for tablets that I’d heard about, and he actually has to check on the computer, which shows me that not too many people actually are taking this offer up. When he says yes, I supply nothing more than my birthday and a desired PIN number. No, not even an ID. When he sees my phone, he expresses enthusiasm for my choice, but tells me to get the IMEI off an in-store tablet for him instead, to make sure the SIM will work in my cell.

What kind of SIM does your phone use? Nano. Is it unlocked? Yes. Okay, just a minute.

The total is $15, but $16.92 with taxes, which covers the SIM. My name is no where on the account, so I basically got a rogue SIM in this post 9/11 world. I know, I was amazed too. I ask if I can add voice service to the card in the future. Yes, I can. Cool, very nice.

I pop the SIM into my Lumia 1520, power it on, and, voila, I have LTE service. Didn’t change any settings, the phone just had them. Can’t beat that. I used my newfound data connection it to navigate to another part of Denver and check a few emails before swapping my old SIM card back in so I wouldn’t miss any calls. My $16.92 experiment had worked, and now I will have data next time I desperately need it outside of my regional carrier’s coverage area.

T-Mobile’s free 200MB SIM for Tablets, in a Phone