VOL. 114 | NO. 229 | Wednesday, November 29, 2000
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
Cricket Communications leaps into Memphis market
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
The Daily News
While taking the phone on the road may have been the initial goal of wireless communication, a new service in town may actually replace landlines for some customers.
Now, when people want local telephone service, they have an option other than calling traditional local service providers.
San Diego-based Leap Wireless, a telecommunications company that has been providing service in Chattanooga and Nashville during the past year, launched service for Memphians on Nov. 15 under the name Cricket Communications.
Derek Jett, general manager for Crickets Mid-South division, said the new service is a perfect fit for about 90 percent of the population because it offers a flat rate for local cell phone usage.
"Its a flat rate and its all you can talk," he said. "Its cost effective."
The service costs $29.95 per month, and customers can chose from features including voice mail, caller identification and call waiting.
The first feature a customer adds costs $3.95 per month and each feature thereafter costs $2 per month, Jett said.
Although the service does not include long distance calling, the company offers the service for an additional fee.
Long-distance minutes can be purchased in advance for 15 cents per minute, and Jett likened adding the service to filling a gas tank.
There is a certain segment of the population for whom the service would not work, such as people who travel extensively, Jett said.
But, for those who use their phones locally, Cricket can be the ticket for a wide variety of individuals, Jett said.
College students who want phone service in their dorm rooms are ideal candidates for the service, he said.
Bill Ray, regional director for BellSouth Telecommunications West Tennessee operations, said hes seen Crickets television commercials and agrees that some active, on-the-go people may choose to have only cellular service.
Still, Ray isnt worried about the competition because he said landline gains have been steady during the recent past.
"There are applications for landlines, for example, PCs at home and fax machines and that sort of thing that Im not sure cellular companies can address," he said. "Our line gain has been pretty steady even with the competition of cellular, even our own cellular service."
Tavis McCourt, telecommunications analyst for Morgan Keegan, said while a goal of the newest wireless player in town is to drive landline displacement, the main way the companys business will boom is by adding new customers who have not previously been wireless customers.
"In order to get to the 60 to 70 percent penetration rates that you see in some of the European countries for wireless, youve really got to tap that next incremental customer in the U.S. and in Memphis," he said.
Budgetary constraints have kept many people from getting wireless phones, because they cant afford to have a fluctuating plan, he said. The fact Cricket offers a flat rate for its service is likely to give it a competitive edge, McCourt said.
"I think what they do is substantially increase the local wireless market," he said.
Jett said he is confident that because Cricket customers wont have to deal with the "shock factor," or the feeling associated with getting a high-dollar bill from a wireless service provider, the service will be a hit with consumers.
The company operates three facilities around the city 5030 Poplar Ave., 1605 Germantown Parkway and 7235 Winchester Road.
In addition to these facilities, Cricket Communication services can be obtained from other locations, such as mall kiosks and some retail stores.
Since Leap Wireless launched in Tennessee, Jett said the company has gained about 46,000 customers in Nashville and Chattanooga, and all signs indicate the service will be a hit here, too.
"Its been an overwhelming success in Memphis," Jett said.