iPhone Offered on Prepaid Plan With Cricket Communications

If you want that iPhone without a two-year contract, you can have it, thanks to Cricket. But forget smartphone subsidizing.

Users who lust for Apple's iPhone 4 but don't want to attach themselves to a carrier contract are in luck, as Leap Wireless subsidiary Cricket Communications said it will be the first prepaid carrier in the country to offer the smartphone to its customers. Starting June 22, Cricket will offer iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 with a $55-per-month, all-inclusive unlimited talk, text and data plan.

Cricket's service plans feature all-inclusive pricing with no service fees or overage charges. The catch, however, is that customers must pay top dollar for the iPhone; Cricket is charging $499.99 for a 16GB iPhone 4S, while an 8GB iPhone 4 goes for $399.99. A consumer choosing a national carrier like AT&T, for example, would pay just $299.99 for a 32GB iPhone 4S, with basic monthly voice plans starting at $39.99 a month and $20 for a basic data plan (including 300MB of wireless data for apps, email and the Web), which is required for the life of the iPhone service and cannot be removed in the future. Cricket officials note that their data plan is €œunlimited,€ factoring in a fair-usage policy of 2.3GB per month.

In a prepared statement, Doug Hutcheson, president and CEO of Leap Wireless, called the introduction of the iPhone to their plan a €œmajor milestone€ for the company, which claims it covers 277 million people. "Our customers want the best products available, and we are excited to bring iPhone to our pre-paid consumers,€ he said. The carrier offers two other smartphones, the Samsung Vitality and ZTE Score, which are priced at $99.99 and $69.99, respectively.

Cricket and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) wholesaler Clearwire Corp announced in March that they have entered into a five-year wholesale agreement, which allows Cricket to leverage Clearwire's forthcoming LTE Advanced-ready network, which will provide capacity off-load services to supplement Cricket's own LTE network. Cricket currently plans to deploy LTE across approximately two-thirds of its current network footprint over the next two to three years.

Leap has shown solid growth so far this year, with revenues for the first quarter of 2012 increasing 14.1 percent from the prior-year quarter, to $774.0 million. In that period, the company gained approximately 860,000 gross customer additions. Leap reported approximately 258,000 net customer additions for the quarter, made up of roughly 257,000 voice customer additions and 1,000 broadband customer additions.