MetroPCS, the fifth largest cellular company in the United States, has become the first to offer high speed LTE service in the U.S. .
According to MetroPCS, customers in Las Vegas can sign up for its new 4G services for $55 to $60 per month, for unlimited talk, text, and 4G data. The $60 plan offers access to premium video content.
MetroPCS currently serves about 7.6 million customers, with unlimited, no-annual-contract, flat-rate wireless services. It’s mostly a voice network. MetroPCS has no 3G data network. Instead of upgrading to 3G, MetroPCS opted to move directly to LTE.
Their first LTE phone is not a smartphone, but the Samsung Craft, which runs BREW with Samsung’s own TouchWiz user interface. It can run on 3G and 4G networks, has a 3.3-inch AMOLED display, 3.2 megapixel camera with flash and video capture, and it has GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth on board. It comes with a 2GB microSD card with the newest Star Trek movie preloaded.
Users will not be able to tether the LTE phone to a laptop or provide wireless data to other devices. The Samsung Craft costs $299 after an instant $50 rebate. It is available in Las Vegas-area MetroPCS stores and from MetroPCS.com.
Unfortunately, although the Craft supports 3G, MetroPCS doesn’t have any 3G roaming agreements, notes PC Magazine, so if you aren’t in Metro’s two 3G cities (Dallas and Detroit) you’ll have to rely on Wi-Fi.
MetroPCS selected Ericsson for 4G LTE infrastructure, while Samsung provides the initial LTE handsets.
MetroPCS spent almost $1.4 billion acquiring AWS spectrum in several major markets in the 2006 auction, along with fellow regional competitor Leap Wireless, the 7th largest wireless carrier in the United States (4.5 million subs).
At the 2006 AWS auction, MetroPCS bought a 10 MHz regional license, plus an extra 10 MHz license for the NYC area. They also expanded their spectrum holdings in the west, buying a 10 Mhz regional license for the whole west coast, plus an extra 10 MHz for the Las Vegas area, as well as some smaller licenses for the Dallas and Detroit areas.
MetroPCS covers more than 11,000 cities and towns, although many are through roaming agreements (for voice). Their licenses cover a population of approximately 146 million people. As of June 30, 2010, MetroPCS had more than 7.6 million subscribers.
MetroPCS’ LTE service is available in just one city (Las Vegas) currently. They plan LTE coverage in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento and San Francisco next year.
The monthly fees includes access to a number of services including streaming video and music, as well as “premium content” from NBC Universal, BET, and Univision.
- MetroSTUDIO, powered by RealNetworks, is available on the $60 service plan. MetroSTUDIO provides music downloads, ringtones and premium video content from NBC Universal, BET and Univision.
- A new social networking client that allows one click access to notifications, friends and content from the Facebook, MySpace and Twitter social networks and AIM, MSN and Yahoo!
- Upgraded MetroNavigator with voice-activated GPS and turn-by-turn directions.
MetroPCS didn’t spell out what sort of wireless download speeds users can expect. Verizon Wireless is promising between 5Mbps and 12Mbps on the download using their 700 MHz towers.
MetroPCS is moving towards VOLTE a voice-over-LTE standard, that’s just now being finalized. VOLTE phones may also be able to do voice-over-Wi-Fi, so when MetroPCS brings them out in late 2011, it will be able to use Wi-Fi hotspots to supplement its network.
The other alternative is a solution called VoLGA (voice over LTE via generic access) that breaks mobile voice and messaging apart from the IP-based LTE network and puts it on the existing 3GPP Generic Access Network (GAN). Development continues as the interim step to IMS, but it appears that most operators would rather move straight to IMS.
Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeff Nelson said, “We are on track to deliver a live LTE network covering about 100 million people by the end of this year in 25-30 major metro areas. We expect laptop connectivity at first, with consumer handsets to follow around mid-year 2011.”
AT&T is targeting 70 to 75 million POPs covered with its LTE network by mid-2011.
TeliaSonera uses 20 MHz wide LTE channels, twice the bandwidth of Verizon’s 700MHz system. It uses the 2.6 GHz band – same as Clearwire’s WiMAX in the United States. Clearwire’s Phoenix LTE test will use Huawei gear, the same vendor that TeliaSonera is using.
Mobile data traffic now surpasses voice and it will continue to grow indefinitely. Data will soon take 80% of traffic. Everyone knows that. The four major U.S. mobile operators control 90% of the market.
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