LAS VEGAS—So those $99.99 flat-rate voice plans are “revolutionary”? Don’t tell that to Leap Wireless International, aka Cricket.
“We’ve been doing it for nine years,” says Scott Edwards, senior vice president of marketing. The carrier’s whole business model is based on the flat-rate model – so much so that years ago it caused a legal tussle with rival MetroPCS. Now, the carrier with the flat-rate model from Day 1 is starting a new ad campaign showing consumers just how much they can save in these tough economic times by going with Cricket – about $600 a year.
Cricket was one of the first to include unlimited text messaging in its rate plans, Edwards notes. National carriers’ introduction of $99.99 unlimited voice plans, which those carriers admit are geared for a tiny percentage of their audience, are only helping Cricket’s cause, he says.
For $60 a month, Cricket customers can get unlimited anytime minutes, U.S. long distance and 200 nationwide roaming minutes.
For now, the carrier’s target customer base is really those who earn less than $50,000 a year, and a large number fall into an even lower income bracket. While analysts last year speculated the sub-prime market troubles would impact the company, the truth is, a lot of Cricket customers are not home owners, according to Edwards.
However, gas prices are a better indicator of economic impact for the carrier; if customers need to cut back because of high gas prices, they might cut their telecom spending, although it’s not a given how many will do that if their only means of communication is wireless.
Granted, Cricket service isn’t directly available in too many large metro areas; it relies on roaming arrangements because a lot of the markets in which it has built a network are in secondary, or Tier 2, markets. Still, the company plans on changing that scenario as it builds out with AWS spectrum.
Oklahoma City will be the first Cricket market to operate on the AWS band, and it will launch there on April 8. Rate plans range from $35 to $60 a month.