AT&T's Cricket: 'Few' CDMA customers remain ahead of network shutdown, including in California

AT&T Mobility's (NYSE: T) Cricket Wireless prepaid brand has "few" remaining customers on its legacy CDMA network, which is being officially shut down tomorrow. Cricket said that it has some customers on that network remaining in California "and a few additional locations." 

Cricket did not provide an exact count of customers left on its legacy CDMA network. In late July, AT&T CFO Jon Stephens had said that 97 percent of Cricket's customers were using AT&T's GSM-based network. Stephens said at the time AT&T was moving through the CDMA shutdown faster and with less churn than it originally anticipated.

"The transition from CDMA to 4G LTE has gone extremely well," Cricket said in a statement to FierceWireless. "We've exceeded our goals and come in ahead of schedule, all while creating a superior experience for our customers."

Cricket said its customers are pleased to be on AT&T's GSM-based network and have access to LTE data speeds. "We have the lowest churn rates and highest customer satisfaction rates (NPS scores) in new Cricket's history right now, so the proof is in the pudding," Cricket said, referring to the period since May 2014 when AT&T relaunched the Cricket brand.

The decommissioning of Cricket's CDMA network is the second major CDMA shutdown this year. In June T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) shut off the legacy MetroPCS CDMA network. Cricket's CDMA shutdown came in waves, just like the MetroPCs one, and the last phase started on Aug. 8.

With the CDMA service shutting down tomorrow, customers who do not move to the new GSM-based network and get an updated device will not have access to Cricket service.  

Cricket said it put info and a Q&A on and communicated information about the CDMA sunset via email, direct mail and through direct-to-customer SMS messages starting as early as March 13, 2014 (when AT&T first bought Cricket's predecessor parent Leap Wireless). Starting at the first phase of the shutdown, Cricket distributed monthly communication that ramped up to weekly reminders of the shutdown, including deals on smartphones for those CDMA customers who wanted to move to GSM phones.

In addition to notifying customers of the shutdown, Cricket has offered device trade-in credits along with promotional offers and pricing that it says has been designed to make the transition as easy as possible. Device trade-in credits start at $75, according to Cricket, so customers are eligible for a variety of devices for free, including smartphones from ZTE, HTC, LG Electronics, Motorola Mobility and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Lumia Windows Phones. 

AT&T has been pleased with the kind of customers it has been getting on the Cricket brand, and presumably moving over to its GSM-based network. "These are premium prepaid customers, almost all are choosing smartphones when they go onto our GSM platform and about two-thirds of the gross adds are choosing our highest value plans," Stephens said on AT&T's second-quarter earnings conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "Those are plans that have higher ARPU. In fact, those ARPU levels are similar and sometimes better than other carrier's postpaid ARPU."

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