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Leap Launches 1st AWS-Band Phone

UPDATED! San Diego — Leap Wireless over the weekend began offering the first U.S.-market phone to operate in the new 1.7/2.1GHz Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum.

Although Leap ( hasn’t issued a timetable for launching AWS service, the company plans to turn on AWS spectrum in new markets “soon” to complement its 1.9GHz markets. Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis and Las Vegas will be among the first AWS markets that it expects to launch. The company and its joint ventures operate in 23 states and hold licenses in 35 of the top 50 U.S. markets.

For its Cricket Communications-branded flat-rate unlimited service, Leap has begun offering the $119 UTStarcom CDM7126 in Cricket stores throughout Tulsa, Okla. The CDMA 1x EV-DO clamshell phone also operates in the U.S. 1.9GHz band and in the U.S. 850MHz band. The phone features a metallic case with external indicators that alert users of incoming calls and messages when the phone is closed. The Bluetooth-equipped handset features voice recognition, predictive text input, and Cricket Mobile Web for browsing and downloading ringtones and graphics.

Al Moschner, Cricket’s executive VP/chief marketing officer, said, “We are pleased to be the first wireless carrier to offer an AWS wireless phone to our customers.”

Carriers such as MetroPCS and T-Mobile also plan to launch service in the AWS spectrum but said they haven’t yet begun offering AWS-banded phones to consumers to seed the market.

Cricket service provides unlimited wireless calling without the need for contracts or credit checks. Cricket’s highest value plan costs $60/month and includes unlimited anytime minutes, unlimited U.S. domestic long distance, unlimited coverage in all Cricket markets, free text and picture messaging, voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling and 200 nationwide roaming minutes per month.

Although the UTStarcom phone operates in the 1.7/2.1GHz AWS bands, the 1.9GHz PCS band, and 850MHz cellular band, marketers are calling the UT Starcom phone a tri-band model instead of a quad-band model because AWS phones use one AWS band for sending voice transmission during a conversation and the other AWS band for receiving a voice transmission.