AT&T CEO vows to 'shake up' no-contract wireless with Cricket

AT&T's head honcho teases lower priced plans and different offers in the pre-paid arena.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at Mobile World Congress 2013
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at Mobile World Congress 2013 Stephen Shankland/CNET

AT&T believes the acquisition of Leap Wireless and the Cricket brand will give it a shot in the arm in the pre-paid wireless arena.

At least, that's what AT&T Randall Stephenson believes. On a conference call with analysts on Tuesday, Stephenson teased big things on the no-contract front once AT&T completes its acquisition of Leap Wireless, which is expected later this quarter. Leap operates its prepaid business under the Cricket name.

"With the Cricket brand on top of AT&T, you can expect us to be disruptive in the no-contract space," Stephenson said.

Exactly how AT&T and Cricket will shake things up remains unclear, but Stephenson provided some hints.

He suggested that the Cricket line would be more aggressive on a pricing front, at least far more aggressive than AT&T. The Cricket brand allows AT&T to play around with the pricing and service offering without affecting the core brand.

"There's some flexibility to do some things that are different with a different brand," he said.

Another question is how this affects its existing prepaid businesses, including GoPhone and Aio Wireless, which launched just a few months ago.

AT&T, meanwhile, isn't the only carrier to get aggressive on prepaid. T-Mobile has its own MetroPCS prepaid arm, while Sprint has long pursued prepaid customers through Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. Leap, meanwhile, was on a downward slide when AT&T scooped it up, so there will likely be a lot of work to turn that business around.

The company reported it lost 32,000 prepaid customers in the fourth quarter, but blamed it on a decline in tablet activity.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.



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