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The U.S. prepaid industry is finally getting its hands on the iPhone.
Just a few days after Leap-owned Cricket Communications announced plans to offer Apple's smartphone to its customers later this month, Sprint's Virgin Mobile brand is said to be planning an iPhone debut.
Unidentified sources told The Wall Street Journal that Sprint will announce this week that it will offer the iPhone on its Virgin Mobile brand as soon as July 1.
The report, if true, means the iPhone is gradually falling into the hands of more U.S. prepaid providers. Cricket plans to offer the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 to customers beginning on June 22. A report also recently emerged that Sprint's prepaid brand, Boost Mobile, plans to offer the iPhone in September.
The Journal said the iPhone on Virgin Mobile would be more widely available than through Cricket because Sprint's network used by Virgin claims to cover nearly the entire nation. Cricket only covers 60 million people or 20 percent of the U.S. population, the Journal reported, although the company notes on its website that it has expanded coverage all across the country.
Sprint's prepaid customer base has been growing significantly. In the first quarter, the carrier added 489,000 prepaid subscribers while improving its churn thanks partly to improvements in the Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile brands. Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless operator with 56.1 million customers, had 13.7 million prepaid customers on the Sprint platform as of March 31. That's up from 9.9 million prepaid subscribers in the year-ago period.