John Dwyer, the president of AT&T’s prepaid carrier, Cricket, alluded at the Consumer Electronics Show that after a successful year the company were considering offering customers zero-rated data. However, at this time Dwyer could not be drawn into giving additional comment, instead, he explaining that Cricket were offering “tremendous value in our rate plans” and any decision would have to be carefully considered. At this time, Cricket’s data offerings are less sophisticated than parent AT&T, which started offering a Sponsored Data service during its developer conference three years ago, and subsequently introduced zero-dated data together with its DirecTV Now service. AT&T has also introduced a “Stream Saver” technology, which works in a similar way to some of T-Mobile US’ video streaming technologies in that it reduces the quality and size of a video stream in order to save customers data, although most of AT&T’s plans still charge for data by the bit or byte - something competitor T-Mobile US wishes to change.
Over the months we have seen a number of AT&T promotions, services and products being introduced for Cricket and its customers: Cricket now offer AT&T’s DirecTV Now service through stores, which Dwyer justifies because he believes DirectTV Now is aligned towards the "same kind of price-conscious consumer that Cricket does.” Currently, parent AT&T’s Stream Saver technology has not been made available for Cricket and we have no word if this data reduction system will be introduced to the prepay carrier despite Dwyers remarks that customers’ video streaming use is “over the top.”
As for the Cricket business, AT&T have to date not provided specific prepay customers but Dwyer stated that 2016 was a good year - AT&T may provide some guidance on January 25 when they release their 2016 Q4 figures but are unlikely to explain the detail of the Cricket business. We do understand that Cricket has been increasing its distribution network and over the last twelve months: Cricket has increased the number of national distribution points to 14,000 from a little under 10,000. Today, Cricket has approximately 4,300 stores across all fifty U.S. states and the carrier will continue to expand its distribution footprint, taking advantage of many consumers’ preference for the simpler, pre-pay plan rather than a more complicated and longer-term plan. One plan for the coming year is that Cricket is going to separate and differentiate the brand from the other prepay carriers (including TracFone, Boost, MetroPCS), and one way they are planning to achieve this is by using social media. In 2016, Cricket produced a number of videos it said went viral and the most successful one included wrestler John Cena, viewed approximately 26 million times. In short, Cricket wants to be the prepay carrier on everyone’s lips.