San Diego - Prepaid carrier Leap Wireless launched its first 4G LTE market and began offering a 4G LTE USB modem from Hauwei.
The carrier turned on LTE in the Tuscon, Ariz. area and plans to expand service to nearby Nogales, Ariz. in 2012. The carrier, which sells under the Cricket Communications brand, hasn't announced a timeline for LTE expansion beyond that.
The carrier operates its 3G CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A network in 66 markets in 35 states and has a reseller agreement with Sprint to offer service under the Cricket brand in all 50 states. Leap also has a roaming agreement with LightSquared, which plans to build a terrestrial- and satellite-based 4G LTE network, to expand LTE service to markets outside of the 66 markets in which it operates its own network.
LTE-equipped cellphones will likely come to the Cricket network sometime in mid to late 2012 "when prices come within the range of our customers," a spokesman said of the carrier's prepaid service, which offers unsubsidized phones but subsidizes during special promotions.
The carrier's LTE USB model is the $149-suggested Huawei Boltz, available through Cricket's company-owned stores. Consumers can select from two 4G LTE monthly service plans, each providing up to 5GB of data per month. The $50 plan offers download speeds of up to 3Mbps, and the $60 plan offers download speeds up to 6Mbps. The speeds range from five to 10 times faster than Cricket's current 3G data speeds, the carrier said.
The Boltz operates in LTE mode in Cricket's AWS spectrum and in 3G mode in the carrier's AWS and 1900MHz bands. The modem features assisted GPS, USB 2.0 configuration, and microSD slot supporting 32GB cards.