MetroPCS Gains Edge Over Bigger Rivals With 4G

MetroPCS is hoping that what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. The fifth-largest wireless carrier in America, known for its no-contract, flat-rate plans, activated a 4G Long Term Evolution CDMA network in the Nevada gambling mecca this week, with plans to do the same in other major markets. That puts the company ahead of larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T in moving beyond the current 3G standard.

Only Sprint Nextel and its subsidiary, Clearwire, has a 4G network, known as WiMAX, which is already online with two phones that utilize it. Verizon expects to offer its LTE, which is currently in the testing stages, in 30 major markets by the end of the year, while AT&T hopes to move to 4G in the middle of next year.

Leg Up On Competition

MetroPCS, which has about seven million subscribers, is marketing the Samsung Craft as the first smartphone to use an LTE network for faster data speeds, although the company didn’t specify the expected upload or download speeds for the network. Samsung Mobile partnered with MetroPCS to set up the Las Vegas network, which could help the small company increase its share of the burgeoning smartphone market, which is increasingly driven by high-volume data.

“What they have done is pretty intriguing, mainly because of the location they have chosen,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “Given the number of high-tech conferences that choose Las Vegas every year, I think it’s a great venue for the company, which is essentially a mini-player player in the wireless operator space compared to Verizon Wireless and AT&T.”

King said it’s difficult to assess the growth potential for MetroPCS and how 4G networks could change the wireless landscape.

“At this point it still pays to call 4G an emerging technology,” he said. “What they are trying to do here…

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