Cricket ties up with LightSquared for LTE roaming agreement

Throwing a little caution to the wind over brewing GPS interference concerns, Cricket -- the CDMA budget carrier that specializes in contract-free plans -- has hooked up with LightSquared to deliver additional LTE service through a roaming agreement that'll supplement its own rollout "over the next few years. " All told, the moves should bring it up to technological speed with archrival MetroPCS, which deployed LTE last year (beating Verizon to market, actually) and currently has a pair of Samsung-sourced handsets on the market to take advantage of it. For LightSquared's part, this is exactly the type of deal they've been looking to ink: the company has expressed no interest in lighting up a retail-facing carrier of its own, instead offering wholesale LTE deals to other carriers -- like, say, Cricket -- who don't necessarily have the spectrum, the time, or the budget to roll out 4G in earnest. Follow the break for LightSquared's press release.

[Thanks, Mark]

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Cricket Enters into 4G Roaming Agreement with LightSquared

SAN DIEGO AND RESTON, Va. – March 22, 2011– Leap Wireless International, Inc. (NASDAQ: LEAP), a leading provider of innovative and value-driven wireless communications services, and LightSquared™, the nation's first wholesale-only integrated wireless broadband and satellite network company, today announced that they have entered into a long-term 4G roaming agreement. The new arrangement will allow Cricket, Leap's operating subsidiary, to supplement the LTE coverage that Cricket plans to deploy across its own networks over the next few years with LTE roaming services from LightSquared.

"Our business progress demonstrates how data services are increasingly important to our customers, as evidenced by our customers' significant uptake of smartphones and data-focused, higher-ARPU service plans," said Doug Hutcheson, Leap's President and CEO. "We intend to deploy our own LTE networks beginning this year to complement the existing nationwide 3G services we currently offer to customers. This new roaming arrangement will allow us to offer customers an even-greater 4G service area as LightSquared expands its own network. We believe that the broad coverage resulting from this business agreement will enhance our ability to offer compelling products and services and allow us to strengthen our retail relationships and distribution capabilities. It will also give us flexibility to access additional 4G capacity where needed as data-centric devices become more popular and require more and more bandwidth."

"Leap is a fantastic company and we're excited to do business with them," said Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman and CEO of LightSquared. "Cricket customers' appetite for wireless data is growing exponentially and in ways no one could have envisioned even a few years ago. By providing a wholesale-only nationwide 4G LTE network complemented by satellite coverage, LightSquared will help Leap meet its customers' demand for universal, affordable broadband connectivity. We are fully committed to delivering our roaming services on time and with the quality, speed, coverage and capacity required to support Leap's business needs."

Financial and other terms of the roaming agreement were not disclosed.