updated 10:55 am EDT, Wed March 14, 2012
Cricket parent Leap wholesales Clearwire LTE
Cricket's parent company Leap on Wednesday struck a deal with Clearwire to use its upcoming LTE network. The five-year pact will let Cricket users run on Clearwire's 4G in addition to the network Cricket itself plans to build. The expansion would give extra capacity where it was needed to help cope with demand, Leap chief Doug Hutcheson said.
The prepaid carrier was otherwise expected to have one of the more conservative LTE rollouts of US carriers, taking three years to reach two thirds of its network. Clearwire wouldn't necessarily expand the number of areas it covers, but it would provide more substantial coverage in those areas where it already has a presence. Clearwire is due to start its LTE in March and would have substantial coverage by 2013.
Most carriers in the US now will have majority or significant LTE coverage by 2013. The gap between major carriers and smaller ones has been comparatively large, however, as AT&T and Verizon plan to be mostly done while Sprint, T-Mobile, and regionals like MetroPCS either have yet to start or have to move slower.
For Clearwire, the deal could an important part of its recovery. It has only ever had Sprint as a wholesale customer for its 4G and has drawn concern from those worried that its success rides on whether or not it stays friendly with the larger provider.