RadioShack launches no-contract wireless service

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Hauwei Mercury & Pillar
Electronics retailer RadioShack announced Wednesday that it will team up with Cricket Communications to launch a no-contract wireless service.

Rates for "feature" phones using the service are $25 a month for 300 voice minutes and $35 a month for 1000 voice minutes. Both plans come with unlimited texting and Internet access.

Rates for smartphone plans are $50 a month with 1GB of full-speed data and $60 a month with 2.5GB of full-speed data. Both plans include unlimited voice, domestic text messaging, and music with Muve. The $60 plan also includes unlimited international texting.

Muve Music is a Cricket service that offers unlimited full song downloads from a catalog that includes millions of songs and is available to subscribers for no additional cost. According to RadioShack, its Muve Music phones are the only ones that come bundled with an 8GB memory card, which can be used to store up to 6000 songs, or a combination of songs, photos, and videos.

Available Phones

As reported last month, two phone models are tied to the new no-contract offering. The feature phone for the service is the Huawei Pillar ($39.99), which has a QWERTY keyboard, camera and supports Web access.

The smartphone for the service is the Huawei Mercury ($149.99). It runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and has a 1.4GHz processor, four-inch FWVGA display and eight-megapixel camera.

Two additional phone models will be available for the service at the end of the month, RadioShack said.

In teaming up with Cricket—which made headlines earlier this year when it began selling iPhones in a pre-paid offering —RadioShack is becoming what's known in the telcom industry as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), or a company that uses a carrier's network service and brands it as its own.

MVNOs have a checkered track record at best. Both ESPN and Disney tried the approach and eventually abandoned it. Of course, neither ESPN nor Disney has the retail network—4700 company stores, 1100 dealer and franchise shops and 1500 wireless phone centers—and customer base attracted to economical wireless plans that RadioShack has.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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