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MetroPCS – first LTE network in the US

MetroPCS the fifth largest carrier in the US will be the first operator to launch LTE in September, couple of months ahead of Verizon. Samsung’s vice president of systems research and development, Jaebeom Choi, said that MetroPCS would launch their LTE network in the Las Vegas and Dallas markets. At this point, the Samsung Craft will be the initial offering from the carrier – though it may not be an awesome device to launch a next generation network, but will still showcase the kind of speeds LTE will be capable of achieving. This will be a feather in the cap of this regional cellular provider who is a low cost provider for voice and data in the prepaid wireless market.

MetroPCS

MetroPCS is the fifth largest wireless telecommunications network in the United States, and currently serves about 7.6 million customers covering around 20 markets. The company, a Delaware corporation, is headquartered in Richardson, Texas. They operate in 12 of the top 25 largest metropolitan areas, with extended home service in all but Seattle. MetroPCS operates a CDMA 1xRTT (2G) for Mobile Web services in the PCS (1.9 GHz) and AWS spectrum, and has roaming agreements with Verizon and Leap.

Spectrum Holdings:

MetroPCS has 10-20 MHz of AWS spectrum and 10‐30 MHz of PCS spectrum in each of its home markets.Voice networks are deployed on a mix of PCS or AWS, or both. 5 MHz AWS pairs are adjacent in some markets and separated in others, limiting MetroPCS’ ability to launch on 10MHz LTE channels. MetroPCS would not be able to launch LTE Dongles and Tablet devices due to limited spectrum position, as it doesn’t have 20MHz of contiguous spectrum in any market, hence primarily focusing on LTE handset launch as a market differentiator. The rate plan for LTE would not be much higher than the current data plans that they offer.

MetroPCS has two non‐contiguous 5 MHz pairs of AWS spectrum and 10MHz of PCS spectrum in Dallas while it has two contiguous 5 MHz pairs AWS spectrum and no PCS spectrum in Las Vegas. In Dallas they will be able to deploy LTE only in the contiguous 10MHz of PCS spectrum while in Vegas they can deploy in the 2×5 MHz contiguous spectrum assuming voice is over the other 5 MHz spectrum.

MetroPCS will be using Ericsson as its infrastructure vendor in most markets including Dallas, meanwhile it will be using Samsung for the Las Vegas market. The first LTE phone will be the Samsung Craft a CDMA/LTE phone which will be able to support VOIP as well. The price for the phone will be comparable to other MetroPCS handsets, which should put it somewhere close to $300. Neither MetroPCS nor Samsung has offered details about what operating system the Craft will run. The Craft was approved by the FCC with LTE in July.

As for specs, the Samsung Craft will have a touchscreen display along with a slide-out 4 row QWERTY keyboard and 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. In addition you can also expect to find a Qualcomm chipset, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 as well as other goodies including a full HTML browser and music player. The network support for the Craft will come in the form of dual-band 1700 / 1900 LTE and EvDO.  It does have some appeal in that it comes contract free and LTE capable requiring a SIM card.

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