IT’S HERE! An Affordable Unlimited Plan for Apple’s iPhone

Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) will be the first prepaid carrier in the U.S. to sell the iPhone, offering the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartphone through its Cricket Communications division. Leap will sell the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 starting June 22 on its $55-a-month unlimited talk, text, and data plan. The 16GB 4S model will cost $499, while the 8GB iPhone 4 will be priced at $399, both without any contract.

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“Our customers want the best products available,” Leap chief executive Doug Hutcheson said in a statement. “Launching the iPhone is a major milestone for us.”

Leap will face competition from AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), and Sprint (NYSE:S), which offer heavy subsidies on the upfront price of the device by putting customers into two-year contracts. The iPhone 4S is available for $199 at AT&T and Verizon with a contract, and $650 without the subsidy.

Leap reportedly made a three-year and $900 million commitment with Apple, and is picking up some costs of its customers. “We estimate that Leap will be subsidizing each iPhone by about $100 to $125, somewhat more than its typical $50 to $100 smartphone subsidy,” JPMorgan Chase analyst Phil Cusick said in research note.

Leap shares had fallen 38 percent this year before Thursday on slow growth in the prepaid market and falling hopes that the company could be a takeover target. The stock of Leap’s prepaid rival MetroPCS Communications (NYSE:PCS) has also dropped 27 percent this year.

Cricket’s network uses CDMA and EVDO technology for voice and data and the company has roaming agreements with Sprint.

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