MetroPCS launches US LTE service

US mobile operator MetroPCS has claimed to be the first to launch commercial 4G LTE services in the US with the switching on of its network in Las Vegas.

Built in partnership with Samsung Mobile, which is supplying an LTE handset developed for the service, the network will cover most of the company’s existing CDMA footprint in the region. MetroPCS said it plans further LTE roll-outs before the end of the year, with more to come in early 2011.

“We’re offering affordable, predictable and flexible 4G services on a no-contract basis,” said Roger Lindquist, MetroPCS CEO. “This network positions us as a full-service broadband wireless provider.” He said the MetroPCS service will compete with Clearwire’s Wimax service, also available in Las Vegas.

Mike Roberts, principal analyst at consulting firm Informa, described the announcement as “a milestone”: “It signals the shift of mobile networks from 3G to 4G, and from a focus on voice to data,” he said. “MetroPCS has also put its name in the mobile history books by becoming the first mobile operator in the world to launch an LTE handset.”

A number of other mobile market players are readying their first commercial LTE services, including Verizon which has said it will launch a major deployment before the end of the year in around 30 cities, covering nearly 100 million people. AT&T has said it will launch LTE by the middle of 2011, with the aim of covering up to to 75 million people by the end of next year.