LAS VEGAS--Leap Wireless is taking its Cricket-branded service nationwide. The flat-rate carrier said its service is now available across all 50 states and Puerto Rico and in the top 125 markets. The company also changed its pricing plans, with its most basic calling plan now just $30.
Leap said the expanded coverage is due to roaming agreements with Sprint Nextel and other partners. However, a Sprint spokeswoman said that the company is not involved in Leap's coverage expansion. Multiple sources confirmed that Sprint is one of Leap's romaing partners for the expansion.
Leap said the deal boosts its coverage area from 194 million POPs to 277 million POPs. The company also expanded its own CDMA network.
Leap spokesman Greg Lund said it was critically important for the company to be able to market itself as a nationwide service, adding, "being able to say that and sell that to customers is really big for us." He noted that churn in the fourth quarter was up to 4.7 percent, a sharp jump from 3.8 percent in the year-ago quarter. One of the key reasons the carrier thinks customers churn, he said, was the lack of a nationwide footprint. "We think this will pay great dividends for getting customers and keeping customers," Lund told FierceWireless. "I can't overstate the effect that this will have on our business." He said that the company is beginning a new marketing campaign around the expanded coverage.
Leap's $30 plan now includes unlimited local talk, long distance and nationwide voice coverage. The company's plans go up the ladder, with price points at $40, $50 and $60, each with new features.
The carrier recently announced a joint venture with regional, flat-rate wireless provider Pocket Communications aimed at boosting Leap's position in south Texas, where Pocket has a significant presence. And while media reports have indicated Leap is exploring strategic options, including a possible sale, the company's recent activity seems to indicate it is moving ahead on its own expansion course.
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Article updated March 24 to reflect Sprint's comments.