Cricket coming to area

New cell phone service limited across county

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— Cricket Communications is expanding west along Interstate 70 and adding a dot of coverage around Steamboat Springs.

The wireless phone service provider's plans cost $35 to $60 a month and have no contract or overage charges, Area General Manager Chris Samuelson said. All plans include unlimited anytime minutes and free text and picture messages.

The company has added towers in Steamboat and aims to add some competition to the market, where Verizon Wireless is dominant, Samuelson said.

"The company elected to put more investment dollars into Colorado than any other market across the country," he said, adding that Cricket wants to attract Steamboat customers and provide service for Front Range residents who visit the city.

Cricket representatives will sell phones from trucks when they get permission, Samuelson said. The ultimate plan is to contract with wireless retailers to sell phones and plans. Samuelson said he hopes to have that set up in 30 to 60 days. Potential takers also can get plans and phones at mycricket.com.

Company representatives walked Lincoln Avenue and talked to businesses about their impending arrival. Owners were receptive, Samuelson said.

Cricket provided a Motorola Motokrzr phone and the $60 plan to the Pilot & Today for a test run. A jaunt around Routt County revealed the boundaries of service.

The phone got solid reception throughout Steamboat, but it faded about 10 miles west of town on U.S. Highway 40.

Service was spotty through the mountains, and the phone popped back on line near Yampa Valley Regional Airport. An attempt to dial from downtown Hayden in front of Town Hall brought a voice message welcoming the caller to Cricket's nationwide roaming network. Roaming is covered in the plan, Marketing Manager Laura Stitt said.

A dip down Twentymile Road off U.S. 40 revealed the limitations of Cricket's network in Routt County. Reception faded in and out and had cut off completely by Oak Creek. The "no service" message sat defiantly on the phone's screen through Phippsburg and Yampa.

Cricket will see how successful it is in Steamboat before determining whether it will expand the coverage area, Samuelson said.

"We were asked a lot of questions, like, 'Do you cover Craig?'" he said. "Right now, we don't cover Craig. That's something we'll take a look at."

Officials at My Wireless, which offers service through Verizon, declined to comment on the incoming competition.

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