MetroPCS will launch Android LTE phone in Q1

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MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) plans to launch its first Android-based LTE smartphone in the first quarter of 2011, possibly as early as February. The company, which debuted the nation's first LTE smartphone, the Samsung Craft, in September, appears intent upon maintaining its lead in LTE smartphones.

Company CEO Roger Linquist told investors at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference today that a number of existing MetroPCS customers upgraded to the Samsung Craft and he expects the company to launch about a half-dozen other LTE smartphones by mid-2011. He did not provide further details on the manufacturers of those devices or whether they would all use the Android operating system. However, he did say that the company plans to use VoLTE (voice over LTE) technology on its Android smartphones so that the company can quickly migrate customers from its CDMA network to its LTE network.

Linquist also said that the VoLTE application will automatically be offered on all LTE Android handsets and that customers will have to make a conscious choice if they want to use another VoIP application besides MetroPCS' VoLTE application. "We think our VoIP app will have the greatest quality of service associated with it so there will be no reason for consumers to choose another app." he said.

As far as pricing, Linquist noted that the Samsung Craft is currently priced at $299 and that he expects MetroPCS' LTE-based smartphones to be priced very similar to 3G smartphones, ranging from low-end pricing around $199 to the high-end pricing around $400 or $500.

Regarding Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) LTE launch yesterday, Linquist said that he believes all of Verizon's LTE advertising will be supportive to MetroPCS, adding that the term 4G is just now beginning to be understood by consumers. He also said that Verizon's marketing will help spread the word that there are significant changes happening in the wireless industry. "Verizon is a strong supporter of 4G LTE," Linquist said.  

Verizon launched its LTE service in 38 markets with 2 USB modems and has said it will launch its first LTE smartphone in the first half of 2011. The company plans to launch voice-over-LTE service by late 2012 or early 2013.

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