Summary:

RadioShack joins the ranks of the mobile virtual network operators, partnering with Leap’s Cricket Communications to resell its prepaid smartphone and feature phone plans. The deal both expands Leap’s retail presence and allows RadioShack to sell service plans, not just handsets.

The rumors are true: RadioShack is joining the now-crowded market of virtual carriers. On Wednesday it will launch its own mobile service in partnership with Leap Wireless.

RadioShack’s deal with Leap relies on a hybrid mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model. Rather than function independently from its network partner, RadioShack will feature Leap’s mobile brand, Cricket Communications, in the name of its service: “RadioShack No-Contract Wireless powered Cricket.” The electronics retailer will also resell Cricket’s voice and data plans instead of buying minutes and megabytes wholesale and developing its own pricing models. Those plans will included access to Cricket’s popular music subscription service Muve.

But RadioShack will only sell a subset of Cricket’s devices and have – at least for 30 days – exclusive rights to its own smartphone:  The Huawei Mercury Ice. The Android 2.3 handset will sell for an unsubsidized price of $150 and will be coupled with either a $50 or $60 monthly no-contract plan. Both plans come with unlimited voice and SMS, but the cheaper one will come with 1 GB of data before Cricket’s throttling policies kick in. The $60 plan comes with a soft monthly data cap of 2.5 GB.

RadioShack will also sell the Huawei Pillar feature phone with plans starting at $25 a month, and said it will begin selling two additional handsets by the end of September.

The launch means RadioShack is no longer just a reseller of devices for the big U.S. carriers. It will now resell services, from which it can take in a monthly revenue stream rather than just an initial sales commission. For Leap, the deal means a big opportunity to get Cricket service into the hands of new customers. According to the Wall Street Journal, RadioShack has more than 4,400 US locations plus an additional 1,500 kiosks at Target stores.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Bekathwia

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