T-Mobile expands MetroPCS footprint by 50M POPs, adds $40 rate plan

Less than three months after its merger with MetroPCS, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) said it has expanded the MetroPCS footprint by 50 million POPs. Along with starting service in 15 new metro areas, T-Mobile also said it is expanding its bring-your-own-device service to all MetroPCS customers.

Nokia Lumia 521 is Metro's first Windows Phone 8 device

Nokia's Lumia 521 is making its way to T-Mobile's MetroPCS brand.

Additionally, MetroPCS launched a new "$40, period," rate plan that offers unlimited voice, texting and 500 MB of LTE data. Once a customer reaches 500 MB, their data speeds are slowed for the rest of their billing cycle. Metro continues to offer $50 and $60 plans with larger high-speed data allotments.

T-Mobile said in May it would extend the MetroPCS brand to another 100 million POPs over the next six quarters, and today's announcement represents the half-way point in that effort. MetroPCS' new markets include Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Cleveland, Akron, Sandusky and Toledo, Ohio; Austin, Corpus Christi, Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; New Orleans; San Diego, Calif.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

Tom Keys, executive vice president and COO of T-Mobile's MetroPCS unit, said 13 of the 15 new markets are where Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) currently offers service, and that MetroPCS will go aggressively after those customers. Moreover, he said in an interview with FierceWireless that, since MetroPCS is now using T-Mobile's network and spectrum, it will be able to offer service that is seven times faster than legacy MetroPCS service.

Keys said it will take about a month for MetroPCS stores and dealers to get established in the new markets, a process that is going on now. By around Sept. 1, he said, MetroPCS will start rolling out advertising in the new markets. In the meantime, MetroPCS will be offering promotions to get customers in the new markets to switch over or bring their own phone.

The MetroPCS BYOD program currently supports AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile iPhones, and the iPhone 5s from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint (NYSE:S). It also supports GSM-based Android phones and Windows Phone devices, but not BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) phones, tablets or mobile hotspots.

MetroPCS also announced that it will start selling the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 521, an entry-level device that is Metro's first Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 device, for $99. The Lumia 521 has been a hit at T-Mobile thus far. MetroPCS will also launch LG Electronics' Optimus F3, an LTE Android phone with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, for $149.

MetroPCS continues to expect that by 2015 its entire base will be off of Metro's legacy CDMA network and on T-Mobile's LTE network. T-Mobile's LTE network now covers 157 million POPs in 116 markets, and the company expects to cover 200 million POPs with LTE by year-end. Keys said 48 percent of MetroPCS customers currently use LTE devices that can take advantage of T-Mobile's LTE network, which runs on 1700 MHz AWS spectrum.

"We should be out of selling CDMA devices at the latest by the end of this year," Keys said. "So we don't think the migration is going to be terribly hard. By 2015, we want to have CDMA technology pulled out of the network."

T-Mobile is now juggling three brands: The main T-Mobile brand, the Metro brand and the GoSmart Mobile brand, another prepaid offering T-Mobile launched shortly before it completed its acquisition of MetroPCS. Keys said he is "as pleased as punch" with how T-Mobile is managing the brands, and that the brands all go after different segments of the market. The MetroPCS brand, he said, remains focused on prepaid customers in the "dense, urban core," and not more upscale postpaid subscribers.

Keys also said he is not worried by AT&T's plans to acquire Leap and keep the Cricket brand, noting that over the last several years, before the merger with T-Mobile, MetroPCS had outpaced Cricket in terms of subscriber growth. He said MetroPCS would continue expanding its market footprint at a steady pace.

"Regardless of AT&T and Cricket, we were going to go do this," he said. "This just gives us a really glowing target to go after, because there's a reason there's been a decline in that [Cricket] customer base."

For more:
- see this MetroPCS release
- see this separate MetroPCS release

Related Articles:
Fate of Aio uncertain in wake of AT&T's acquisition of Leap
AT&T snaps up Leap Wireless for $1.2B
T-Mobile brings GSM-based Android, iPhone BYOD service to MetroPCS
T-Mobile to expand MetroPCS footprint by 100M POPs
T-Mobile reiterates support for GoSmart Mobile, despite MetroPCS merger

Article updated July 25 to clarify the reach of MetroPCS' footprint expansion.