Leap Boosts Plans; Plans To Add More National Retailers

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San Diego - Leap Wireless is sweetening the pot for consumers and dealers.

For consumers, the prepaid carrier added new features to its flat-rate unlimited-calling plans under its Cricket-brand prepaid service following the launch of aggressively priced unlimited-use plans by prepaid carriers MetroPCS and TracFone.

For dealers, Leap improved compensation plans to "further add to our competitive advantage." The new plans went into effect Aug. 4. A spokesman declined to elaborate.

In other distribution developments, Leap said it plans to expand its Cricket-branded landline-replacement services into more national retail chains and into other channels not currently served. The company sells through company-owned stores, Cricket-branded stores owned by third parties, and indirect retailers, mainly independent wireless specialists. Some months ago, the carrier opened up sales of its PayGo service to Walmart and Dollar General stores in the 34 states where it offers service, but the company intends to expand into additional national retailers by the end of the year with "some" of the three services, a spokesman told TWICE. In addition, the carrier intends to bring its three services to additional distribution channels that it doesn't currently serve. The spokesman, however, declined to identify those channels and when that expansion would occur.

Leap's three Cricket-branded services consist of unlimited-use cellphone service paid in advance a month at a time, unlimited-use broadband service for the home and laptops, and PayGo. The latter enables consumers to prepay for cellphone service for a select number of days rather than prepay a month at a time.

The sweetened unlimited-use plans took effect Aug. 4 in select Cricket markets with a population of about 72.3 million people out of the total 91 million people reached by its network. To its $40/month unlimited-use plan, the carrier added unlimited Web access and unlimited 411. That plan already offered unlimited voice, long distance, domestic and international text, and picture messaging. To its $45/month unlimited-use plan, Leap added those features plus unlimited email, unlimited data backup and 30 roaming minutes per month for use outside Leap's network. A $55/month plan offers the same features as the $45 plan but includes 200 roaming minutes.

To the new plans, the company also threw in free roaming in its Premium Extended Calling area, which consists of 4,600 cities and towns serviced through roaming partners. The Premium calling area effectively extends the reach of Leap's network.

Leap's upgraded plans follow the launch of aggressive pricing by other prepaid carriers. Recently, Tracfone Wireless launched its Straight Talk service, a $45 prepaid flat-rate calling and text messaging plan. For its part, MetroPCS last week announced additions to its $40 and $45/month unlimited-use plans, offering a $40 plan that includes unlimited talk, text and web access and a $45 plan that added email, navigation and social networking applications. MetroPCS' $30 and $35 local unlimited plans added include caller ID and call waiting. A $50 plan continued to offer smartphone customers complete HTML Web browsing and enterprise wireless email, at significantly less cost compared to other carriers' data packages.

MetroPCS also became the first North American carrier to offer unlimited international calling for an additional $5/month to more than 100 countries. The feature is available for its $45 and $50 service plans.

Earlier this year, Sprint Nextel's Boost division launched a $50 unlimited plan that includes unlimited talk, messaging, Web and walkie-talkie service.

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