MetroPCS lines up ZTE for LTE phones

US CDMA operator MetroPCS has tapped ZTE to make Long Term Evolution (LTE) phones, cementing the relationship between the two upstarts and giving more definition to the operator's 4G strategy.
The carrier and the manufacturer are already working on the handsets, according to Tom Keys, MetroPCS' chief operating officer. ZTE is building a smartphone with a large screen and HTML-capable browser, according to Keys. The two companies have worked together since 2007, and ZTE's current offerings through MetroPCS include mid-range candybar and clamshell devices.
MetroPCS announced in early March that it would deploy LTE in the second half of 2010. The flat-rate carrier, which currently operates a CDMA network on AWS and PCS spectrum, said last August that it had picked LTE as its 4G standard, following the lead of Tier 1 operators Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility.

MetroPCS is the USA’s sixth largest cellco, with 6.1 million customers.
The move is significant for both MetroPCS and ZTE. MetroPCS recently debuted its first smartphone, a BlackBerry Curve from Research In Motion, in March. ZTE has been eying the US market and has made clear it plans on expanding its reach, especially in terms of smartphones.

Raymond Kim, the general manager of sales for ZTE USA, told FierceWireless in a recent interview that ZTE will look to build on its relationship with MetroPCS as it expands in the United States. Kim said that ZTE also was in discussions with Verizon and Sprint Nextel to sell handsets.
ZTE recently posted a 35% jump in first-quarter revenue.

For more:
- see this Forbes
- see this ZTE release