Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cricket leaps into 4G strategy

Cricket has finally announced its 4G strategy: it’s going to license capacity from Clearwire, which has been providing WiMax to Sprint but (as long predicted) is shifting over to the industry-standard LTE next year.

More precisely, Clearwire is switching to the Chinese variant of LTE called TD-LTE — which presumably makes it easier to get more cheap phones from Huawei and ZTE. However, given Qualcomm’s support for TD-LTE, the cellphones may also be available from more familiar (i.e. Korean) smartphone brands. (VentureBeat sees this as another nail in the LightSquared coffin.)

San Diego-based Leap Wireless (dba Cricket) has lagged its longtime rival and erstwhile suitor Metro PCS on picking a 4G strategy. Given its size and scale — or lack thereof — licensing network access is probably the only way to get nationwide coverage.

The five year agreement to buy Clearwire capacity would seem to reduce some of the possible synergies between Cricket and Metro PCS, thus possibly discouraging another acquisition attempt during the life of the agreement. Perhaps that’s why the stock was down 3.8% on a day when the market was flat.

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