Rumor Mill: AT&T's 'New Cricket' plans to start at $40/month, speeds to be capped

AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) is preparing to unveil its new prepaid strategy that stems from the carrier's recent acquisition of regional prepaid provider Leap Wireless, which operates under the Cricket brand. And according to a source familiar with the company's plans, AT&T will launch a refreshed service currently dubbed "New Cricket" with pricing plans that are almost identical to AT&T's current Aio Wireless prepaid offering.

According to the source, AT&T recently presented the New Cricket pricing plans to existing Cricket dealers. For feature phones, New Cricket will offer an unlimited talk and text plan for $25 per month. For smartphones, New Cricket will offer plans starting at $40 for unlimited voice and texting and 500 MB of high-speed data. A $50 plan will bump up the high-speed data allotment to 2.5 GB and a $60 per month plan will include 5 GB.

The New Cricket pricing was first reported by Prepaid Phone News.

New Cricket will also provide a $10 per month discount for each line of service a customer adds. For example, a second line of service added to the $40 per month smartphone plan will cost $30 per month, and a third line of service will cost $20 per month. AT&T added group discounts to its Aio brand last month.

Importantly, AT&T will cap the data speeds of New Cricket customers, though it's not clear exactly what those caps will be. AT&T currently caps the speeds of Aio Wireless customers to 8 Mbps on LTE devices and 4 Mbps on HSPA+ devices. When Aio customers exceed their data allotments, their speeds are slowed to 128 Kbps for the remainder of their monthly billing cycle. New Cricket plans will employ similar data throttling.

An Aio spokesperson declined to comment on the rumored plans, noting only that "we look forward to sharing information about the exciting launch of the new Cricket Wireless in the near future." AT&T previously has said it will fold its Aio brand into its Cricket brand, and will launch an "aggressive," refreshed Cricket offering sometime in the second quarter.

As for New Cricket phones, the company will aim to offer smartphones starting at around $50. Aio currently sells the ZTE Prelude for $49.99. AT&T executives have also said the company plans to refurbish the phones that AT&T customers trade in through AT&T's Next handset upgrade program and resell those used phones to Cricket customers, thereby allowing it to offer cheaper phones to Cricket customers.

During a presentation at an investor conference today, AT&T CFO John Stephens said there are 200 markets where Leap's spectrum is idle. He said "we are in the process of today immediately putting into service," noting that AT&T expects to turn on services over that spectrum during the next 12 months.

Stephens also said that AT&T plans to incorporate Leap's existing network of dealers and retail outlets into its distribution network, and that "we think we can be effective and disruptive in taking share" in the prepaid market.

For more:
- see this Prepaid Phone News article

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