MetroPCS: $100 LTE handsets will come mid-2012

MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) Chairman and CEO Roger Linquist believes the second half of 2012 will see LTE handsets coming to market at prices that are comparable to what the company offers to its customers today on the CDMA side.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Linquist said since MetroPCS made such a large commitment early on to LTE technology--which involved skipping CDMA 1xEV-DO altogether--it took the company about a year and a half to gain sufficient interest and reach the point where it could see an economic way of deploying the technology. MetroPCS has deployed LTE in the AWS band.

"Instead of going through the 3G data phase, which we wanted to avoid because we... knew that 4G was going to be right on the heels of 3G," Linquist said. "So we made the bet to deploy LTE. Now we have a two-network system. We are carrying the load and working hard to develop the ecosystem, which for us includes handsets all the way back to chip manufacturers."

Linquist said getting the price of LTE handsets down to $100 represents a breakthrough for the company since it targets cost-conscious subscribers.

"In the handset arena, when this becomes a single chip worldwide production embraced by a large number of handset vendors, we can expect prices of handsets to fall," Linquist said. "There will always be top-of-the-line handsets but there will also be a line of what we call a premium handset priced in the $100 and less range at retail."

Interestingly, Linquist said MetroPCS has ample amount of capacity on its LTE network, which uses a 5 x 5 MHz configuration in most markets. "We have 4 million to 5 million [subscribers] we can still get on the LTE network," he said. "We have latent capacity and although we have interest in LTE products we aren't anywhere near the 4 to 5 million at this point."

Linquist expects capacity to ramp up once handsets drop from a premium price of $250 to $450 to the $100 to $150 sweet spot. "That has been an attractive price point for the Android devices," he said.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless article

Related articles:
Report: MetroPCS leading pack to acquire AT&T's divested assets
MetroPCS: We will consider selling LTE tablets in the future
MetroPCS adding EV-DO to around 20% of cell sites

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