Leap Wireless, Sprint to Offer Prepaid No-contract iPhone 4 and 4S

NEWS ANALYSIS: Recent developments and rumors suggest that the iPhone dam is about to burst, with the iPhone being available for virtually any carrier, anywhere. The question remains, though, is how soon will it include that long-time iPhone hold-out T-Mobile.

It€™s taken nearly five years, but it looks like the iPhone will soon be running on nearly every segment of the U.S. wireless telephone network, including smaller regional carriers and prepaid cell phone services. It looks like even T-Mobile will soon be ready to carry the iPhone.

Already two big prepaid cell phone services names will start offering the Apple iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S without a contract. Cricket Communications, a subsidiary of Leap Wireless, will start selling a non-contract version of the CDMA iPhone on June 22, according to a company announcement. The Cricket iPhone 4S will sell for $499.99. You can buy an iPhone 4 for $399.99.

A day after the Cricket iPhone was announced, a rumor surfaced in TechnoBuffalo that Boost Mobile, which is a subsidiary of Sprint, would also offer a CDMA prepaid iPhone in September. The Boost Mobile information had few details, although it€™s reasonable to assume that pricing would be similar to what€™s available at Cricket.

"Our customers want the best products available and we are excited to bring iPhone to our prepaid consumers with an industry-leading $55 per-month service plan," said Doug Hutcheson, president and chief executive officer, Leap Wireless International, in a prepared statement. "Launching iPhone is a major milestone for us and we are proud to offer iPhone customers attractive nationwide coverage, a robust 3G data network and a value-packed, no-contract plan," the statement said.

Boost Mobile has yet to confirm that the company will be offering the iPhone.

Now that prepaid carriers are starting to work with Apple, the obvious question is where is T-Mobile. While a source in a position to know has told eWEEK that T-Mobile will be selling the iPhone in 2012, the source was unable to provide any specifics, including a date.

However, T-Mobile has already begun the process of re-farming its HSPA+ network so that it€™s compatible with the iPhone and it has begun the process of implementing LTE on bands compatible with the iPhone. T-Mobile announced on May 7 that the company had selected vendors to build out its 4G network, including LTE. The company said in its statement that its nationwide LTE build out would be in place in 2013.

While iPhones will work fine on T-Mobile€™s existing network, they won€™t work on the company€™s original HSPA+ bands, meaning that the one million or so iPhone users already on T-Mobile need to use the slower 3G EDGE protocol or the even slower GPRS protocol for data. The build out of the new HSPA+ network that will work with the iPhone is already underway and there are already pockets of connectivity for some iPhone users in some major cities.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...