In late July, AT&T announced that it turned on its 5G network nationwide. Also contained in the announcement was a blurb stating that the network would become available to Cricket Wireless customers on August 21. AT&T owns Cricket Wireless.
Now that August 21 is here, the network is indeed available to Cricket Wireless subscribers but there are strings attached. 5G access is only available on select plans including Cricket's freshly updated data-only plans. The updated data-only plans now top out in price at $90 for 100GB of high-speed data. Access for phones is limited to Cricket's most expensive unlimited plan priced at $60/month or $55 with autopay billing enabled. Unfortunately, only one device can be used for the time being with a Cricket 5G phone plan. Customers must purchase a Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G from Cricket for $1199.99. Bring your own device (BYOD) is NOT yet supported.
Cricket's 5G Network Explained
Mirroring AT&T, Cricket will use two different types of 5G networks. There's a 5G nationwide network that relies on the use of low-band sub-6GHz spectrum and a 5G+ millimeter-wave network that is NOT available nationwide and is only available in select locations.
The difference between the two networks is significant. The 5G network's radio waves travel farther and penetrate buildings better than 5G+. 5G network speeds, however, may not be significantly faster than 4G LTE data speeds. On the other hand, the 5G+ network is capable of extremely fast data speeds. AT&T claims observed peak speeds of over 2Gbps on 5G+. That would be 25x plus faster than the data speeds that RootMetrics recently measured on AT&T's 5G and 4G LTE networks.
You can see if 5G network access if available in your location by viewing Cricket's coverage map.
5G Network Phone Access Currently Requires The Purchase Of A $60 Plan And A Very Expensive Phone
In order to access the network on Cricket's $60 unlimited high-speed data phone plan, you'll need to pick up the $1199.99 Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G. It's available for purchase on a phone payment plan with a down payment of $49.99 with no credit needed. More affordable 5G phones will launch at a later date.
The $60 5G network access capable unlimited plan is available at a discount to those with multiple lines. Pricing for multiple lines is as follows:
- 2 Lines - $90/mo.
- 3 Lines - $110/mo.
- 4 Lines - $130/mo.
- 5 Lines - $160/mo.
Besides unlimited data, the plan also includes unlimited talk and text and unlimited international texting to 37 countries. It also includes 15GB of mobile hotspot, HD Voice and WiFI calling, and the ability to use service while traveling in either Mexico or Canada. Video streaming is limited to a resolution of 480p.
Cricket's Updated Simply Data, Data-Only Plans Come With 5G Network Access
Cricket has updated its Simply Data, data-only plans to include 5G network access with a compatible device. Some new add-ons are also available. Cricket's updated data-only plans are priced as follows:
- $35/month - 20GB of high-speed data
- $50/month - 40GB of high-speed data
- $90/month - NEW PLAN! - 100GB of high-speed data
New Simply Data Plan Add-Ons
- $10 - 15GB one time data top-up
- $10/month - 15GB of recurring monthly high-speed data
The plans do include roaming in Mexico & Canada. 5G data access is only available with Cricket branded 5G devices and hotspots. Cricket did not launch a 5G hotspot device with the plan updates, so the only 5G compatible device would be the Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G.
5G network access only being available on Cricket's most expensive unlimited plan is disappointing. It's the same strategy that AT&T is using with AT&T Prepaid. 5G network access is only available on AT&T's most expensive unlimited prepaid plan which has a regular price of $75/month but for a limited time is available to new subscribers for $50/month. It's also disappointing that Cricket did not launch it's 5G network with any special plan offer for new subscribers to at least match the pricing being offered by AT&T Prepaid. Cricket's and AT&T Prepaid's most expensive plans are similarly featured although AT&T charges extra for taxes whereas they are included in the price with Cricket. AT&T Prepaid's plan includes 5GB less mobile hotspot, but more international texting countries and HD video streaming.
What's also puzzling about the 5G network launch is that BYOD is not supported and customers only have the option to purchase one very expensive phone. Cricket is viewed as more of a budget brand for AT&T and a $1199.99 device certainly doesn't fit that bill. Without the support of BYOD or cheaper devices, this initial launch appears to be primarily for marketing purposes. I would be highly surprised if there are many early adopters of Cricket's $1199.99 Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G phone.