Cricket Communications and Pocket Communications, former competitors in the prepaid wireless phone market, have formed a joint venture aimed at luring more customers away from the "big four" wireless providers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
Frank Vos, Cricket’s district director for the Upper Valley, said the partnership will mean better coverage and capacity, more service locations and a wider ranger of products for customers of both companies. The venture will be controlled and managed by Leap Wireless International, which launched its Cricket prepaid brand in 1999. Cricket offers service to 5.3 million customers across most of the United States. San Antonio-based Pocket was formed in 2006 and offers service from San Antonio to Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi, and the cities of Hartford, Conn., and Springfield, Mass. Pocket has roughly 340,000 customers in South Texas.
Vos said one out of five South Texas wireless subscribers will be part of the new, combined entity, adding that the transition should be seamless for customers of both companies.
"If you are a Pocket customer then nothing will change for you," he said. "If you are Cricket customer nothing will change either. As time moves on, as a Pocket customer you’ll be able to take advantage of an expanded product portfolio and vice versa: If you’re a Cricket customer you’ll be able to take advantage of an expanded product portfolio."
In terms of cost to the customer, "we don’t anticipate any changes any time soon," Vos said. Pocket will keep its own name for the time being, though eventually all Pocket service locations will become Crickets.
South Texas — encompassing Brownsville and Harlingen, Corpus Christi, Laredo and San Antonio — will see another 400 service locations as a result of the joint venture, he said, bringing the total to about 900 service locations. Vos didn’t have specific information on how many of them will be in Cameron County.
Vos said prepaid or pay-as-you-go wireless is the fastest growing segment of the wireless industry. At least part of that is due to the recession as budget-minded consumers look for cheaper alternatives for wireless services. The fourth quarter of 2009 marked the first time the number of new prepaid wireless customers surpassed the number of new contract-based cell phone customers. Prepaid customers are not required to sign contracts.