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Cricket's First LTE Market Coming Soon

Sarah Thomas

Cricket Communications Inc. is on track to launch its first Long Term Evolution (LTE) market shortly, the carrier said on its third-quarter earnings call Monday.

"The introduction of LTE is now an increase in priority for the business, and I'm pleased to report we're on track," Cricket CEO Doug Hutcheson said on a call with analysts. "We expect our first LTE market launch shortly."

Specifically, Cricket confirmed it will have a commercial trial market up and running before the end of the year. After that, its 3G network, now nationwide thanks to an MVNO relationship with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), affords the carrier the ability to upgrade to 4G in a thoughtful manner, Hutcheson added. (See Leap's 3G Trumps Metro's 4G/2G Mashup, Cricket Leaps to Nationwide and Leap Takes Its Time on LTE.)

Cricket's LTE will blanket 25 million POPs by the end of 2012, growing to two-thirds of its current footprint in the next two to three years. The CDMA carrier also plans to offer competitively priced 4G devices, primarily smartphones, by mid- to late-2012, Hutcheson said. But, he noted that low-cost, lower-feature devices drive more volume than high-end smartphones for the carrier.

Cricket has 23 MHz of spectrum in its operating markets to roll out LTE. Hutcheson said he’s confident in the company's spectrum position but will evaluate opportunities in the market from time to time. The carrier is expecting to spend less than $10 per covered POP, excluding capitalized interest.

LR Mobile caught up with Cricket Senior Director of Business and Product Management Sergio Garcia at CTIA earlier in October. Check out the video for more details on the carrier's LTE plans. (See Cricket Sticks With Unlimited as It Looks to LTE.)

Leap lost money in the quarter but managed to add 10,000 new customers to its network, compared to a loss of 200,000 last year, thanks to its expanded network and increased smartphone adoption. Cricket said that 50 percent of its sales in the quarter went to smartphones, and Hutcheson expects that number to continue to grow as more customers choose Android devices with its unlimited music service onboard. (See Leap Hopes Music Will Muve It Nationwide.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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12/5/2012 | 4:50:07 PM
re: Cricket's First LTE Market Coming Soon

Great article Sarah,

I'm curious to see how Cricket will handle pricing for their LTE customers.  Seeing as how they've positioned themselves as a sort of budget option to the other big carriers, I wonder if they'll follow suit with 4G options as well?

12/5/2012 | 4:50:01 PM
re: Cricket's First LTE Market Coming Soon

They'll have to keep up the low-cost strategy, but I wonder how long unlimited will last. They aren't ruling out tiers, but since their customers aren't tied to any contract, it'd be much harder to lock them in. Unlimited will be one of their few advantages outside of low-cost plans.

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