MetroPCS to Launch LTE Network, Samsung Phone in September

MetroPCS, per Samsung, will launch the first U.S. 4G LTE network in September, stealing this hoped-for distinction from Verizon Wireless. With the network will come the LTE-enabled Samsung Craft smartphone.

MetroPCS' plan to roll out a 4G LTE (long-term evolution) network in September-ahead of Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest mobile carrier-is reportedly on track.

Jaebeom Choi, vice president of systems research and development for Samsung, whose equipment will power the network, confirmed to the Dow Jones Newswires Aug. 27 that the network will go live in September in Las Vegas and Dallas. Additionally, the launch will be paired with the Samsung Craft, an LTE-enabled smartphone.

On July 29, the FCC approved the device-the very first in United States-at the time identified as the Samsung SCH-R900. The smartphone reportedly offers support for dual-band 1700/1900 and dual-mode LTE/EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) networks, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and a microSD slot for expanding its memory.

Wireless provider Sprint runs a still-expanding 4G network based on WiMax technology, and competitors Verizon and AT&T each have plans to roll out LTE-Verizon during the fourth quarter of 2010 and AT&T in early 2011. An LTE network from MetroPCS-a small, San Diego-based carrier that offers a range of prepaid plans and has no 3G network-would be the very first of its kind in the United States.

Analyst Roger Kay, with Endpoint Technologies, says the rollout gives MetroPCS its 15 minutes of fame, but it won't make much of a financial difference for the company once the industrywide LTE push gets under way.

"Still, you've got to give them credit for trying," Kay told eWEEK, adding, "If I were in Verizon's shoes, I wouldn't be too worried. Though it does indicate that the technology is available today. Verizon shouldn't delay too much longer."

Despite Sprint's 4G lead in the United States, LTE is widely expected to become the prevailing 4G technology, and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has said company executives are considering rolling out LTE alongside the WiMax network, which is offered by Clearwire.

"We have spectrum resources where we could add LTE if we choose to do that, on top of the WiMax network," Hesse told the Financial Times July 12. "The beauty of having a lot of spectrum is we have a lot of flexibility."

Samsung's Choi, however, hardly expects Sprint to take its focus off of WiMax, telling Dow Jones that just breaking even on a network investment takes five to seven years. A Sprint LTE network, it's been reported, could increase the likelihood of a Sprint merger with carrier T-Mobile-a move that could prove damaging to smaller carriers such as MetroPCS.