Score one for the little guy. MetroPCS, a small pre-paid wireless provider, has beaten larger rival Verizon Wireless to market with an LTE 4G network. It is the first commercially available LTE network in the U.S. MetroPCS had previously said the network and phone would launch in September.
According to MetroPCS, customers in Las Vegas can sign up for its new 4G services for a mere $55 to $60 per month, which includes taxes and fees. MetroPCS indicates those price points include unlimited talk, text, and 4G data (though the "unlimited" part of that equation isn't going to last forever). It's not clear what is different about the two plans, and MetroPCS has yet to respond to press inqueries.
The monthly fees includes access to a number of services from MetroPCS, including streaming video and streaming music on-demand, as well as "premium content" from NBC Universal, BET, and Univision. MetroPCS says that it has updated its navigation software, as well as its social networking software, which can now be used to aggregate Twitter, Facecbook, and other feeds into one spot.
As for the first LTE phone, well, it's probably not what you hoped it might be. First, it is not a smartphone. Sadly, the Samsung Craft runs BREW with Samsung's home-cooked TouchWiz user interface. It has a 3.3-inch AMOLED display, 3.2 megapixel camera with flash and video capture, and it has GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth on board. It comes with a 2GB microSD card with the newest Star Trek movie preloaded.
It is a dual-mode device, which means it can run on 3G and 4G networks. MetroPCS' 3G footprint is fairly limited, and LTE is available in just one city. LTE coverage is coming to more cities soon, including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento and San Francisco.
MetroPCS didn't spell out what sort of wireless download speeds users can expect, which is a bit of a disappointment. Verizon Wireless is promising between 5Mbps and 12Mbps on the download.
MetroPCS did say, however, that users will not be able to tether the Craft to a laptop or provide wireless data to other devices. The Samsung Craft costs $299 after an instant $50 rebate. It is available in Las Vegas-area MetroPCS stores and from MetroPCS.com
“We continue to see our customers use mobile data services, and the majority of them rely on their handset as their primary access to the Web,” said Tom Keys, chief operating officer of MetroPCS. “Our 4G service, the Samsung Craft and applications like MetroSTUDIO deliver exactly what our customers demand: more of the entertainment they love, a desktop-like Web experience and the ability to do more and share more of their content such as text, photos and videos with friends and family.”
Verizon Wireless has said that its LTE network will launch in 30 market metro markets by the end of the year, covering close to 100 million POPs. AT&T is targeting 70 to 75 million POPs covered with its LTE network by mid-2011.