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MetroPCS launches 4G service, phone in Las Vegas

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 8:10am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

MetroPCS became the second operator in the United States to deploy commercial 4G services today with the launch of its LTE network in Las Vegas.

The deployment of MetroPCS' LTE network marks an evolutionary leap for the wireless carrier, whose current wireless deployments consist mainly of 2G technologies.

"We are delivering a 4G LTE service that is unmatched in value and positions MetroPCS as a full-service broadband wireless provider – a giant step for our business," MetroPCS President and CEO Roger Linquist said.

MetroPCS said its first 4G deployment covered most of its CDMA footprint in Las Vegas. The operator plans to roll out LTE to its remaining markets over the rest of this year and early 2011.

MetroPCS also unveiled its first 4G device, the Samsung Craft. The LTE/CDMA device sports a 3.3-inch Amoled display, slide-out Qwerty keyboard and 3.2-megapixel camera. The Craft sells for $299 after a $50 rebate.

The device comes with two service plans. The $55 plan offers talk, text and data that will be offered "initially" on an unlimited basis. The $60 plan offers the same unlimited service and includes access to MetroStudio, which provides on-demand media content, including exclusive videos from NBC Universal, Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Univision.

Ed Chao, senior vice president of engineering and network operations at MetroPCS, told Wireless Week that the carrier's 4G deployment is not about competing with its Tier 1 brethren.

"We're not trying to be more than what we are; we're not trying to compete on the peak data rate front," Chao said. "It's about continuing to add value to the $50 range."

It remains unclear what speeds users can expect on MetroPCS' 4G network because of its narrow spectrum resources. The company declined to disclose specific throughput rates but said it was "seeing speeds better than 3G networks today."

The company warned in a May regulatory filing that "because of the limited amount of spectrum available to us in certain metropolitan areas, we will be required to deploy LTE on 1.4 or 3 MHz channels adjacent to our existing CDMA network in those metropolitan areas."

MetroPCS is deploying its LTE network in its AWS spectrum holdings, which run in the 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz bands. A company spokesman said the carrier was dedicating 5 MHz of continuous spectrum to LTE data traffic for its Las Vegas launch.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T are launching their respective LTE networks in the 700 MHz band, which has better propagation characteristics than higher frequencies.

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