EarthLink/SK Telecom joint venture Helio releases EVDO card, software with one-rate plan: The company, which was founded to bring fancy handsets from South Korea into the hands of hip youngsters, has released a product that should appeal to we old-timers, too. The Helio Hybird package includes a 3G EVDO PC Card and a software package that enables access to unlimited EVDO and unlimited Wi-Fi for $85 per month. The package costs nothing if you commit to two years' service. (Windows only at this point.)
Helio is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), which means that they buy their cell minutes and cell data from established operators. Those operators tend to charge $60 per month for unmetered EVDO with a voice plan and a two-year commitment. (That's changing to just a two-year commitment and no voice plan.) Boingo Wireless, which is the enabler of the Wi-Fi part of Helio Hybrid, charges $22 per month for unlimited North American Wi-Fi and a combination of unlimited and metered worldwide Wi-Fi. So combine those two plans, and you get $82 per month, right?
But you can't get a single bill at that rate from any cellular operator. If you sign up with Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel for EVDO or Cingular for UMTS/HSDPA, you don't get a good Wi-Fi plan along with it. T-Mobile does offer a great plan--$30 per month as a voice package add-on for unlimited Wi-Fi and GPRS/EDGE--but even EDGE runs at just-above-modem speeds, and at a fraction of EVDO/HSDPA downstream.
Helio Hybrid thus does have the advantage of giving you everything in one place with one bill and one price. And the fact that they throw in the 3G card, that's just another cost advantage, along with the integrated software package designed by Tartara Systems.
Because these folks are an MVNO, they pay for every bit or minute to their operator partners. Because this is an EVDO service, only Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless can be the partners on the network. Verizon has onerous restrictions on usage, sending out nastygrams and cancellation notices to customers who exceed what they now define as five gigabytes of data transfer per month (an hour a day at 400 Kbps!). Sprint Nextel has not been quite as heavy handed.
The point, though, is that Wi-Fi should be the preferred connection method whenever it's available, because Wi-Fi on Boingo's aggregated network should be universally faster than EVDO whenever Wi-Fi is available. That motivation is coupled with what appears to be a setting to alert the user that there's a better wireless network available--meaning that Helio should be pushing users to swap over onto Wi-Fi whenever they can.
There's no terms of service online yet for the Hybrid plan; I'll be curious what they define as legitimate usage.