Cricket Redefining Communicating In Area

William Reed | 3/17/2010, 3:51 p.m.

There's a new chirping sound across the Washington Area. Cricket Communications has made a big impact since it came to town touting its theme of "Respect!" for its target market.

Cricket's premise is that it can provide local area customers high-quality, low-cost wireless service. To engage customers, and their attention, Cricket is creating high-volume buzz and excitement.

"Cricket is a different kind of wireless company and has everything you will want in wireless service for less." says Matt Andrews, Cricket's Baltimore/Washington Area Marketing Manager.

Cricket is the primary operating subsidiary of Leap Wireless International and provides local wireless service to 4.6 million customers in 4,600 cities in 32 states. Cricket started the local buzz last June with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty at "cord cutting" event on K Street, Northwest in front of the world's largest working cell phone.

Cricket now has 180 area locations. Nationally, and locally, Cricket's service is used primarily by youth and minority callers who do most of their calling from within the company's network. Cricket directs its outreach toward customers whose basic and advanced wireless needs have not been met by national communications companies. Cricket is the pioneer of unlimited services with no long-term commitments or credit checks required. Hispanics and African Americans form 53 percent of Cricket's customers. The company has received citations for its diversity and inclusion strategies. "We're all about straight talk and connecting with the communities we serve," says Andrews.

Cricket's targeted demographic is the fastest-growing in the nation. Cricket's typical customer makes less than $50,000 a year and is under 30. Its customer base has a high percentage of ethnic minorities, as a result, Cricket invested heavily in areas where they reside. Cricket's parent company, Leap Wireless, spent nearly $1 billion buying wireless transmission spectrum from the FCC that covers Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Andrews is in charge of increasing visibility in this market.

Area business and political leaders have been very welcoming to Cricket and the job opportunities it brings. Cricket's coverage area spans from Prince William County in Northern Virginia to Frederick, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary's counties in Maryland, as well as connecting to Baltimore. Cricket rate plans also include unlimited use in all Cricket markets across the U.S. Cricket's entry has brought close to 500 local jobs. Andrews said, "Cricket is committed to being a strong community partner. In record time, Cricket has established unparalleled grass-roots activities among targeted local communities with significant financial and volunteer contributions.

The company has funded events like the H. Street Festival and free wi-fi in Ward 7 government buildings and commercial corridors. "We are very pleased to be working with this effort's" said Julius Ware II, President of the Ward 7 Business & Professional Association. Through the Wireless Reach Initiative, Cricket has teamed up to provide D.C. residents with wireless broadband service through a multi-pronged, public-private alliance that seeks to bridge the digital divide. The initiative is designed to help low-income D.C. residents increase their access to the Internet. Through this initiative Cricket, One Economy, Google and Qualcomm will provide 1,000 D.C. families with free wireless broadband modems that work with both desktops and laptops, plus two years of free access to Cricket's all-digital 3G wireless network.

Some of the collaborating organizations will also provide opportunities for residents to receive free computers, as well as digital literacy and computer training.

Program participants have received two years of Cricket wireless broadband service free. Participating organizations are: the D.C. Public Library, Boys and Girls Club, Byte Back, Casa de Maryland, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, Kramer Middle School, Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, and South Washington West of the River Family Strengthening Collaborative. "It's a win-win for everyone," said Zubin Kapur, Cricket's Area General Manager. "Our mission is to work to maximize the potential of technology to help low-income people improve their lives and enter the economic mainstream.

Cricket's outreach includes programs for local area minority owners. Tony Rome, an African American marketing communications specialist whose client base ranged from BET founder Bob Johnson's RLJ Companies to Cricket, now owns two of Cricket's area dealerships: DMV Wireless-Cricket, at The Mall at Prince George's, 301-559-2260; and DMV Wireless-Cricket, 6577 Ager Rd. in Hyattsville, MD, 301-422-0080. Rome points out what he considers a successful business strategy: Cricket uses a flat rate billing method, offering rate plans from $30 to $50 per month. Retailers do not require credit checks or long-term service contracts.

Despite its low costs, Rome says his products are cutting-edge: Cricket offers customers access to a variety of the latest devises and feature-rich mobile applications such as unlimited text, instant and picture messaging, Mobile Web, popular games, ringtones and wallpapers.