September 15, 2008
While Leap Wireless is nowhere near the big four in terms of coverage or subscribers, the regional carrier is taking aggressive measures to expand.
The company, which is the parent of Cricket and Jump Mobile, already has a wireless footprint that covers about 61.7 million people. It's hoping to double the size of the company from just over 50 million covered POPs at the start of 2008 to approximately 100 million covered POPs by the end of 2010, executives said last week during the CTIA Wireless trade show. To hit these expansion goals, the company is planning to expand aggressively into new markets. It already has expanded to four new markets this year and hopes to launch in cities like Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore as early as 2009 but certainly by the end of 2010, according to a Leap Wireless spokesperson. Cricket, which builds and operates its own networks in each market, has gained some traction lately with its prepaid flat monthly fees. It mainly targets those with no credit or those who don't want to be locked into a long-term contract. The carrier generally has lower prices than its competitors, with a $45 monthly plan that offers unlimited voice, text, mobile Web, and video messaging. Cricket is also dabbling in the video downloads market with a $5 plan that enables users to watch unlimited video clips on their handsets. Cricket also is positioning itself to compete with home Internet providers by offering prepaid broadband over 3G networks. The $40 monthly plan lets Windows PCs surf over the carrier's EV-DO Rev. A with a 5GB per month cap. "There is nobody in the market providing wireless broadband to a low-income customer with no contract," Jeff Toig, Cricket's VP of product marketing, said in a statement. "There are people under $50K household income, with no broadband Internet in their homes. This becomes their alternative to DSL or cable." The expansion moves may not sit well with Leap's closest competitor, MetroPCS. Both companies offer no-contract, flat-rate service plans, but MetroPCS was mainly focused on urban areas, while Leap mainly supplied service to rural areas. The companies flirted with a merger last year, but soon will be going head to head in a portion of central California and in Las Vegas. Cricket and Metro also both own wireless licenses in Philadelphia. The story was edited on 9/16 to clarify Leap Wireless and Cricket's carrier status, its subscriber size, and its $40 plan features.
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