LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILITY LIVE, ATLANTA: The prepaid mobile service market has come a long way from five years ago, when it was left far behind its more lucrative contract sibling, claimed Cricket Wireless president John Dwyer.

“In 2011, the industry was well entrenched in the smartphone and data revolution and frankly prepaid was left behind,” said the head of AT&T’s prepaid carrier.

While many of Cricket’s customers are using a mobile device as their only form of access to the internet, these customers are now demanding “value without sacrifice” and they want “top quality networks”, which is what Dwyer’s firm is trying to deliver. One example of this is its Alcatel Idol 4 phone that comes with a VR headset available for under $100.

He believes this is indicative of how far the industry has come, as is the fact that prepaid subscribers have gone up by 8 per cent in the last two years, and the number of prepaid branded stores has increased by 23 per cent.

The company sees “tremendous opportunity” in the space and wants to continue to invest in it.

One of the ways it will do this is by increasing the number of stores it has, which at the moment is around 4,000. “Distribution expansion is critical to our growth. We will continue to expand aggressively.”

Dwyer believes “the point of purchase is a ‘moment of truth’ opportunity to showcase what the brand is all about and help it focus on customer experience.”

According to the CEO, prepaid has traditionally been a purely transactional space focused on paying for a service and getting discounts, without having any kind of relationship with the customer, and the firm wants to change this. “The customer experience has been largely overlooked,” he noted.

Cricket’s motto is ‘going the extra smile’ which Dwyer described as “a process we use at every touch point. It specifically choreographs the interactions we have with our customers and makes sure every one of them is extraordinary.”

Cricket believes this is a completely different approach to prepaid and puts it on track to mount a serious challenge to larger prepaid rival MetroPCS.

Meanwhile Dywer reflected on the benefits Cricket has gained from being part of the AT&T family. “We’re a 17 year-old company. The minute we were acquired by AT&T we had the opportunity to acquire a broad coverage network, get access to capital at a greater rate, and allow us to accelerate. The values of the organisation are [still] the same, the brand is very similar to before, but the rate at which we have been able to expand is much faster.”