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MetroPCS Debuts $150 LTE Smartphone

Fri, 06/08/2012 - 6:55am
Maisie Ramsay

MetroPCS is taking the wraps off its cheapest LTE smartphone to date, the $150 Huawei Activa.

Lower-priced LTE smartphones are a key part of MetroPCS' strategy to move its customers off its legacy CDMA network so it can shift resources to its LTE network, which is running on just 5 MHz to 10 MHz of spectrum.

"MetroPCS is committed to bringing 4G LTE handsets to consumers with a range of price points and features," President and COO Tom Keys said in the announcement today. 

The Huawei Activa appears to be the first in what MetroPCS previously said would be the "first wave of affordable 4G LTE smartphones" in a major revamp of its device lineup ahead of the back-to-school season. It is also working with Samsung, LG and ZTE on LTE smartphones that will cost less than $150.

Keys said during an investor conference last month that MetroPCS is working on "three or four" LTE handsets below the $150 range and other devices below $100.

The Android-based Activa's $150 price tag includes a $50 instant rebate and a $50 mail-in rebate. It is significantly cheaper than MetroPCS' three other LTE smartphones, the $380 LG Esteem, the $300 Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G and the $250 LG Connect 4G. As a no-contract provider, MetroPCS offers only limited subsidies on its smartphones.

MetroPCS' scarce spectrum resources have caused it to be one of the most aggressive in migrating its customer base entirely to LTE. The company hopes to move enough customers off CDMA so that it can repurpose its scarce spectrum resources for its faster LTE network to better compete with larger operators.

The turnaround effort will depend on voice-over-LTE smartphones expected to hit shelves in the third quarter. Those phones will need to be cheap, as MetroPCS' cost-conscious customers have historically shied away from buying high-priced devices. Prices on MetroPCS feature phones start at about $50.

MetroPCS has not disclosed how many LTE subscribers it currently has but said its LTE customer base "came close to doubling" during the first quarter. The carrier’s LTE customers have a lower churn rate than its other subscribers.

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