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Cricket Turns To Clearwire For 4G LTE Expansion

3/14/2012 11:42:15 AM Eastern
San Diego - Prepaid carrier Cricket shifted gears and plans to wholesale 4G LTE service from Clearwire to supplement its own planned LTE network.

One year ago, Leap announced an LTE roaming agreement with LightSquared to expand LTE service into areas outside of the markets in which it planned to build its own LTE network. Since then, however, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has delayed LightSquared's build-out plans, and many analysts see LightSquared's plans as all but dead, citing vocal concerns by the GPS industry about interference with GPS equipment.

Cricket's five-year wholesale agreement with Clearwire "provides us with an attractive option to supplement our own LTE build-out strategy and gives us the flexibility to access additional 4G capacity where needed as data-centric devices continue to become more popular," said Doug Hutcheson, president/CEO of Cricket parent Leap Wireless.

Cricket currently plans to launch LTE in about two-thirds of its current network footprint over the next two to three years, covering markets with a population of about 25 million people in 2012. The company launched its first LTE market, Tucson, Ariz., in December 2011.

Cricket operates its own 3G CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A network in 66 markets in 35 states and has a wholesale agreement with Sprint to offer service under the Cricket brand in all 50 states.

For its part, Clearwire is transitioning to LTE Advanced from Mobile WiMAX for 4G service. The carrier operates in about 75 markets with around 16,000 WiMax base stations and expects to have 5,000 LTE sites on air by mid-2013 and up to 8,000 on air "not long after that," a spokesman told TWICE. "Our target is the dense urban and suburban areas with the highest demand for usage, but we've not yet announced a city by city rollout list," he added.

Clearwire owns more than 160MHz of spectrum in the 100 largest markets.
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