MetroPCS chief sees prepaid consolidation

MetroPCS (NASDAQ: PCS) CEO Roger Linquist said that there will likely be mergers in the crowded prepaid wireless market soon.

Speaking at the Reuters Global Technology Summit, Linquist said ideally there should be three prepaid wireless players. The market now includes MetroPCS, Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), as well as four distinct brands offered by Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), including Boost Mobile, the recently relaunched Virgin Mobile brand, and Common Cents Mobile, a pay-per-minute brand. Additionally, TracFone Wireless offers its Straight Talk service on Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) network. The MetroPCS chief said that as pricing continues to become more intensely competitive, there will be greater pressure on operators with larger costs structures than MetroPCS.

Linquist declined to comment on whether MetroPCS and Leap will merge. The two have long been rumored as likely candidates for a merger, and earlier this year several reports said that both MetroPCS and Leap had hired outsiders advisors to explore the possibility of a deal. Leap rejected a $4.7 billion takeover bid from MetroPCS in 2007.

MetroPCS plans to launch prepaid LTE services later this year, and Linquist said that the company is exploring ways to acquire more spectrum. He did not provide any more launch details for the service, but said that the first LTE customers will likely be from its traditional customer base.

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