Leap to launch session-based data transactions on top of tiered pricing

Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) announced it plans to launch session-based data services over its existing tiered data pricing structure, a move that will allow customers to purchase faster data speeds for short periods of time. The company said it will launch the service in the first half of 2012.

Leap CEO and President Doug Hutcheson discussed the carrier's plans during his appearance at the Citi Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference.

"The next big step for us that we believe is important is to add what's called session-based capability on top of that [tiered pricing]," he said. "And that will give us a lot more rate plan flexibility. That will mean that you can buy, should you have a very low amount of data but want to buy more within a month. You'll have the ability to buy sessions or time periods where you can accelerate that speed, and it will be done very simply and very straightforward over the device or on a simple transaction with us."

"That is the model that we think will be the future," Hutcheson said of session-based data. He didn't say what Leap will charge for the service but said it would align with the carrier's "low-cost structure."

The news is notable because Leap was one of the first major wireless carriers to switch from unlimited broadband data to a tiered pricing structure for data usage. The carrier in March 2010 introduced data pricing tiers ranging from 2.5 GB of data for $40 per month to 7.5 GB for $60 per month (the prices have since increased). In place of fees levied against users who travel over their data limits, Leap said it would slow users' connection speeds down from its advertised maximum of 1.4 Mbps. Other carriers, including AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile USA, subsequently introduced similar tiered and metered billing options in an effort to curb users' mounting demands for data.

The addition of session-based data to Leap's current tiered pricing structure would give its customers more control over how and when they could use data. For example, users who travel over their 2.5 GB limit could purchase faster data speeds for a 24-hour period for, say, $2.

This isn't the first time Leap has discussed its plans to move to a session-based scenario for data. Indeed, in February 2011 Hutcheson said Leap would move to session-based data later in 2011--thus, it appears Leap's plans for session-based data offerings have been delayed at least slightly.

A Leap spokesman declinded to answer additional questions about the carrier's plans for session-based data, including how Leap will price the offering.

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