AT&T Expands Cricket Store Reach In Prepaid Battle Vs. T-Mobile | Stock News & Stock Market Analysis

AT&T (T) has again expanded the retail reach of it Cricket brand, with distribution deals at Best Buy (BBY) and Aaron’s (AAN), as it battles T-Mobile US (TMUS) in the prepaid wireless market.

AT&T acquired Leap Wireless and its Cricket brand for $1.2 billion in 2014. Since then, AT&T has stepped up Cricket advertising while opening more retail stores. T-Mobile acquired prepaid specialist MetroPCS in 2013.

AT&T says it will add 1,000 Best Buy locations and 2,000 stores through Aaron’s, a nationwide lease-to-own retailer, to its Cricket distribution network.

AT&T earlier signed deals with Target, Wal-Mart, and GameStop (GME). AT&T has nearly 4,000 Cricket-owned stores. Cricket wireless services now will be sold at 12,000 outlets across the U.S., including AT&T’s Cricket stores and distribution at Target (TGT), Wal-Mart (WMT), GameStop, Best Buy, Aaron’s and other locations.

About one-fifth of U.S. mobile phone users buy prepaid wireless services. Prepaid customers buy calling minutes and data as needed. Many prepaid plans renew automatically every month, blurring the line with postpaid subscribers that have service contracts. Prepaid customers typically buy less-pricey phones upfront, and spend less on data services.

T-Mobile and AT&T both added 469,000 prepaid subscribers in Q4, while Verizon Communications (VZ) shed 157,000 and Sprint (S) lost 491,000. Some of Sprint’s prepaid subscribers upgraded to postpaid plans.

AT&T stock was up a fraction in midday trading in the stock market today, above 39. Shares are more than 7% extended from a 36.55 buy point first touched on Feb. 3. T-Mobile stock also was up a fraction midday Monday.

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