AT&T Completes Leap Acquisition, Sprint Prepaid Brand Launches
Prepaid is where the growth is, and every carrier is doing what it can to get a bigger piece of the no-contract market.AT&T has completed its acquisition of prepaid carrier Leap Wireless, which operates the Cricket brand. For its payout of $15 a share, or approximately $1.2 billion, AT&T will receive Leap's wireless properties, network assets, retail stores and 4.57 million subscribers. In addition to gaining a surer hold of the prepaid market—a move that will help AT&T better compete against T-Mobile—AT&T was also attracted to Cricket's spectrum holdings, and has acquired spectrum covering the PCS and AWS bands. AT&T said the spectrum covers 138 million people, and includes unutilized spectrum covering 41 million people. Just as T-Mobile acquired prepaid carrier MetroPCS and began the process of transitioning MetroPCS' users to its updated and more efficient 4G network, AT&T will begin transitioning Cricket subscribers to its 4G network and putting the unutilized spectrum to work for its 4G LTE services. AT&T, in a March 14 statement, said it plans to launch a "new Cricket," to "shake up the no-contract segment with a combination of simple, low-cost rate plans; a terrific lineup of smartphones; and a great network experience." AT&T plans to complete its migration of Cricket customers within 18 months of launching the new Cricket.
Before approving the deal, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made AT&T agree to sell off some Leap spectrum in 12 markets, mostly in Texas and Nevada.
Sprint Prepaid customers with Android phones will also have access to a Sprint Money Express app, which will enable users to send money, deposit checks, pay bills and reload a Visa prepaid card that can be used where credit cards are accepted. Sprint's offer follows a similar one, Mobile Money, offered by T-Mobile in January. T-Mobile said at the time that the average family that relies on check-cashing services (instead of a traditional bank account) could save $1,500 a year with Mobile Money.