AT&T Eats Cricket Wireless, Affecting 4.6 Million

The FCC has approved an AT&T acquisition of Leap Wireless, which includes Cricket and all of its 4.6 million customers--but the agency did not greenlight the deal without caveats.

AT&T does get all of Leap Wireless’ spectrum, networking equipment, and “other assets”, but the company will have to divest spectrum in some markets to avoid anti-competition problems. More notably, AT&T has agreed to launch LTE service using Leap Wireless’ unused spectrum within 90 days so that the latter’s (former) customers get access to AT&T’s 4G network, and LTE service will come to six markets in Texas within 18 months.

Cricket coverage map
Current Cricket coverage map

But wait, there’s more: Because of concerns that the cost-friendly Cricket plans will go away, AT&T must offer “certain rate plans targeted to help value-conscious and Lifeline customers” as well as a device trade-in program to ensure that existing customers can jump on the new network. Mostly, it seems that these efforts are focused on the aforementioned southern Texas markets.

AT&T must also honor any existing CDMA roaming agreements.

If you were wondering how Cricket would jibe with AT&T’s Aio Wireless no-contract plan, the two services are combining into one. Thus, the Leap Wireless buy is a big get for AT&T as it expands its offerings into the inexpensive no-contract market.