AT&T bought the small prepaid wireless firm Leap Wireless this week. Leap Wireless famously runs the prepaid services under the brand name of Cricket. The Federal Communications Commission approved the acquisition and said that it took this decision in the public interest. Cricket Wireless has become a substantial player in the US prepaid wireless market as its customers increased to nearly 5 Million. It has been decided by AT&T to merge its prepaid service under the cricket brand name.
Technically, Cricket Wireless uses CDMA radio access technology compared to AT&T’s GSM wireless technology. AT&T has planned to switch cricket to its radio access technology which is GSM. This acquisition means AT&T has now got a strong market share in the American prepaid wireless business.
AT&T had to agree on a lot of terms in the buying agreement. Cricket had a targeted economy customers and so AT&T has agreed to keep up certain mobile voice and data plans that would not affect the existing Leap Wireless customer base. AT&T also agreed on using the unused Cricket network’s latest fourth generation wireless technology LTE Spectrum. LTE spectrum is expected to be implemented in three to twelve months duration.
South Texas is a hot bed for Leap Wireless and AT&T is planning to provide the advanced LTE technology in that area in three years time. AT&T and formerly Bellsouth has had a considerable market share in Texas historically. This acquisition and transformation of the Cricket network into GSM technology means that the current CDMA mobile phones shall be incapable for usage on the AT&T network. So, AT&T has decided to start a device exchange credit program for all Cricket customers when the network is officially switched to LTE in a few months. The only device exception is for Cricket Apple iPhone 4 users who can claim an AT&T GSM sim card from the AT&T retail stores.
The expected rate plans for the Leap wireless customers now would be a convenient forty dollar unlimited talk, text and data plan for the next three years till the transition to a new technology is successfully done. The data rates expected for the Cricket customers till then would be 500MB at high-speed. If the customers are willing to pay $50 then the data would increase to 2.5 GB and for $60 the customers would get a mammoth 5GB data plan per month. That would be similar to the existing Leap wireless plans and rates.
For music lovers, Cricket wireless used to provide great unlimited download feature called Muve Music but now, AT&T’s music feature Beats Music would cost the customers ten dollars more.
A lot of eyebrows have been raised at the FCC after this approval to AT&T and Leap Wireless merger. FCC has strongly denied any approval for the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint who are the two significant wireless players in US telecommunications market. The FCC paddled this question aside by saying that T-mobile with its jump plan has proved itself as a maverick competitor but, Leap Wireless is not a regulatory concern and so is AT&T.
By Vikas Vemuri