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Wednesday, 9 August, 2006

If you’ve been around Austin in the last week, you’ve noticed signs promoting something called Cricket. I did not put the appropriate two and two together and only discovered last night that Cricket is a mobile telephone service. Not merely that, but Cricket is a telephone service (800 MHz CDMA Digital & 1900 MHz CDMA PCS) not unlike those found off continent. That is, you pay one money for whatever products you wish to access. No per-minute nonsense, no complex tiers, no tricking you into overages, no night/weekend/prime-time rates, just one money for unlimited service per month. If they are piggy-backed upon another company’s network, I have not discovered this infomation.

Service initiated 01 August. The parent corporation, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, of the company providing this unique service, Alaska Native Broadband, LLC,

represent[s] the business interests of the Inupiat Eskimos of the North Slope of Alaska. Organized pursuant to the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, ASRC has over 9,000 shareholders — the majority of which live in the eight villages on Alaska’s North Slope. The company manages a portfolio of businesses in the energy services, government services, petroleum refining, construction and telecommunication industries. ASRC is headquartered in Barrow, Alaska.

These are the packages:

  • Unlimited Basic $30: “Local” calls within the service region, in Austin that would connect you anywhere along I-35 from San Antonio to Kileen, basically. The service also covers the area from Kileen to Copperas Cove.

For the above tier, domestic long distance is .08 per minute. Caller ID, Call Forwarding, Conference Calling, Voice Mail, Two-Way Text Messaging and Data Connectivity which some of the other guys throw in and seem to be expected with mobile phone service are not included. All packages get Call Waiting. Importantly, roaming is simply not available natively within any package. More on Cricket’s roaming ability later.

  • Unlimited Plus $40: Add unlimited domestic long distance to the above, calls to Alaska add .08 per minute.
  • Unlimited Access $45: Add picture messaging, text messaging, AOL instant messaging, voice mail, Caller ID, Call Waiting, and two directory assistance calls per month. Alaska is still an extra .08.

International calling rates are less intuitive, and appear to have something to do with the penetration of digital calling systems within the country. Calls to Russia and South Korea have a mere .10 per minute surcharge. Calls to the UK start at .30 per minute. That rate is more expensive than SBC’s land-line rates to the UK, .25 per minute

About roaming: Cricket does not offer roaming. If you look at their website, you will notice quickly roaming is “Not Available” within any package. However, Cricket offers something called Travel TimeTM which appears very similar to roaming. “Travel Time provides customers the ability to utilize their Cricket® phone throughout the US and Canada while outside of their local market.” Notably:

While traveling in the United States (except Alaska) and Canada you will be billed at the Travel Time per minute rate. [fifty-nine cents] If you are calling Alaska you will be charged an additional $.08 per minute. If you are making an international long distance call you will be charged the Travel Time per minute plus the international long distance rate for the country you are calling.”

In short, you have to specifically enable “Travel Time” on your phone, then you will be charged a minimum of .59 per minute. Talk about retro. Maybe that’s what the “R” means on the phone when you enable Travel Time. You can only pay for Not Roaming, not unlike how the police don’t have ticket quotas, through your “Flex Bucket”. Charges for long distance, Not Roaming and “other services” which are not clear are paid for out of the Flex Bucket. You can’t just pay as you go. You must transfer funds into the Flex Bucket. Peculiarly, you can sign up to add funds every month to the Flex Bucket starting with a minimum of $5.

On the whole, this looks like my kind of service. Considering how often I roam that wouldn’t be a problem, especially considering I could create a regional account, with a new locally-provided phone, if I were ever doing serious calling in another area.

In addition, the phones provided are the poorly regarded, but improving Kyocera brand and a limited selection of higher-end Motorola units which sell for very nearly full price. It is unknown at this time if they tolerate the use of unlocked phones.

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