NEW YORK, July 25 (Reuters) - T-Mobile US Inc, the No. 4 U.S. mobile service provider, said on Thursday that its MetroPCS prepaid wireless business has doubled the number of markets where it operates, putting it head-to-head against smaller rival Leap Wireless in many of its new markets.
Both Leap, which agreed to be bought by No 2 U.S. mobile service provider AT&T Inc and MetroPCS, which merged with T-Mobile less than three months ago, target cost-conscious customers who pay for calls in advance.
While Leap and MetroPCS, small regional operators, previously had little network overlap, MetroPCS can now expand its brand into markets where it could not previously compete with Leap by using the T-Mobile US network.
Leap operates in about 13 of the new MetroPCS 15 markets, according to MetroPCS Chief Operating Officer Tom Keys, who said that he is expanding MetroPCS coverage to a potential customer base of 150 million people from 100 million people.
T-Mobile US, which mostly targets already competes aggressively with AT&T for postpaid customers who pay monthly bills so the addition of new competition for Leap will add a new element to their rivalry once AT&T buys Leap.
In markets where T-Mobile US and MetroPCS services are both available the companies will operate separate stores because they expect to attract different types of customers.
This will involve adding 1,000 MetroPCS stores in new markets by the end of this year, according to the company.
Keys said he would gradually expand the MetroPCS brand into more new markets but declined to give details.
The company is planning to eventually shut down the MetroPCS market and move those customers onto the T-Mobile network. It expects to complete this process sometime in 2015.
T-Mobile U.S. shares were up 11 cents or $24.32 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.