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AT&T’s New Cricket Reveals Pricing, Promotions

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 4:12pm
Ben Munson

AT&T is taking the wraps off its new Cricket Wireless brand, the prepaid carrier it finished acquiring for $1.2 billion just over two months ago.

Cricket, which is absorbing AT&T’s existing Aio prepaid brand, is launching with three unlimited talk and text plans at varying high-speed data allowances. The $40 Basic plan includes 500 MB, the $50 Smart plan includes 2.5 GB, and the $60 Pro plan includes 5 GB. In addition, Cricket will sell a $25 talk and text-only plan.

All of the plan prices will come down $5 when customers sign up for auto-pay. On top of that discount, Cricket is offering a Group Save discount with increasing discounts for adding more lines to an account. Group Save takes $10 off the second line, $20 off the third and $30 off the fourth, maxing out at $90 in discounts.

Cricket said subscribers can mix and match Basic, Smart and Pro plans and still get the same Group Save discounts. Multi-line accounts at Cricket don’t share data buckets.

As Aio Wireless stores transition over to the Cricket brand, Aio’s tablet data plans won’t be making the move along with it.

Andy Smoak, vice president of products at New Cricket, said the carrier has seen the connected tablet trend move toward adding those devices into a shared data plan, an offering Cricket doesn’t feature. Additionally, at launch the new Cricket will feature only 12 handsets in its portfolio, a lean lineup without much room for tablets.

When picking from that portfolio, for a limited time Cricket will offer a $50 device credit—in the form of a prepaid Visa—that can be applied to all phones, including the iPhone. Even after that promotion ends, Cricket will continue a rewards program that gives customers on Smart or Pro plans a $50 device credit for every 12 on-time monthly payments. Those $50 rewards program credits will rollover and can be accrued up to $150. But accounts taking advantage of Group Save will only receive rewards credits for the first device on a plan.

Jennifer Van Buskirk, president of the new Cricket, said that the company has had brand transitioning messaging going out in legacy Aio markets for a while now, but they haven’t been able to talk about pricing up to this point.

“That’s a big thing that customers have been anxious about. They’re worried about increasing pricing,” Van Buskirk said. “Of course we knew what our pricing was, so we felt good about it. But now we get to tell them.”

She said that new Cricket kept a similar pricing scheme to the legacy Cricket but opted to include all taxes and fees, effectively lowering the prices.

The prices have mostly held steady but new Cricket’s network has grown substantially. Cricket subscribers will now have access to AT&T’s nationwide LTE network.

More abundant LTE could mean Cricket subscribers burn through data allowances faster, at which point data speeds will be slowed to 128 Kbps for the rest of the billing cycle. But those customers will still have the option to top-up data before their cycle turns over.

New brand, new stores

Since Aio is being merged with Cricket, existing Aio stores are becoming Cricket stores. With a design in mind that used the in-place framework of an Aio store, new Cricket retail spots offer up a cheery white-and-green motif with little to no clutter on the wall. A small amount of signage and display handsets hang out on the periphery but the majority of the live handsets and accessories rest on floor shelves. A play area for kids, consisting of a white dry-erase table and big crayons, sits in the center of the store. Aside from a point-of-sale counter set up in the back, that’s about all that’s in the store.

For the existing Aio shops, this is the second redesign in less than a year. A T-Mobile suit alleging Aio’s colors came too close to T-Mobile’s signature magenta meant that Aio stores recently experienced a “de-plumming,” as an Aio store employee in Alpharetta, Georgia described it to Wireless Week. But now all the Aio is going out and Cricket is replacing it.

The legacy Cricket storefronts will receive a slightly different makeover. Those retail locations will likely retain their current fixtures and get the revamped Cricket branding materials layered over the top.

So long, CDMA

AT&T is just now beginning to migrate customers from Cricket’s legacy CDMA network onto its GSM/HSPA/LTE network. As AT&T worked through the acquisition, it presented a timetable of 12 to 18 months to move Cricket subscribers onto AT&T’s network.

Van Buskirk said Cricket would move as fast as it could but not faster than legacy customers can handle. She was confident the plans, pricing and promotions at new Cricket would be enough incentive for customers.

“I feel bullish about the rate we’ll be able to migrate those customers to,” Van Buskirk said.

Cheryl Choy, vice president of networks at New Cricket, said that the GSM-based network experience would be compelling enough that she estimated customers would all migrate well before the scheduled shutdown of the CDMA network.

Once AT&T shuts down Cricket’s CDMA network, it will reuse that spectrum for its own LTE coverage.

Choy also said that Cricket customers will now be able to place calls and use the Internet simultaneously, which they weren’t able to do on the old Cricket network.

That’s along with access to a larger LTE network than Sprint, T-Mobile and MetroPCS. Choy said Cricket will be able to leverage AT&T’s Radio Access Network (RAN), giving it good coverage and spectrum density in most markets. But she said Cricket has its own separate data and services network, which allows for a “cost-effective experience.”

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