AT&T has been said to be relaunching Cricket Wireless and combining it with Aio, and now it looks like that's going to happen sooner than we expected. AT&T has announced that the new Cricket Wireless will be launching by the end of this quarter, which ends in June. The upgraded Cricket Wireless will have over 3000 distribution places around the country. AT&T is saying that Cricket will offer simple plans and affordable devices – basically this is AT&T's prepaid arm – and will have a nationwide network behind it. You may recall that AT&T picked up Cricket Wireless for about $1.2 billion, which was actually them buying up Leap Wireless. When it was announced, AT&T confirmed to us that the Aio brand would be going away and that it would be combined with Cricket Wireless once the deal went through. The deal closed last month.
That's not all AT&T wants to do. They picked up some PCS and AWS spectrum as well in the deal, which the nation's second largest carrier is looking to put that spectrum to good use immediately. AT&T is going to need to spend money, however, to shut down Leap's CDMA network and convert them all over to Cricket's GSM network, which could take up to 18 months. This is similar to what we are seeing now with MetroPCS. When T-Mobile bought MetroPCS, they were still using CDMA and LTE as their network, a lot like Sprint and Verizon. And converting takes some time. AT&T is planning on giving Cricket customers the smartphones that AT&T customers trade-in with AT&T Next to get a new phone. Which isn't actually a bad idea. With all these early upgrade programs, we're going to see a lot of used, or refurbished phones around. And passing them down to the prepaid divisions of each carrier is a pretty good idea. It means they can sell flagship phones a bit cheaper.
The new Cricket/Aio service is going to be competing along side Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, and probably most notably, T-Mobile. I say most notably, because we all know how T-Mobile's CEO is, he can never keep his thoughts in his head. And of course he had his own thoughts about this relaunch of Cricket Wireless.