US mobile operator MetroPCS has notched up around 500,000 Long Term Evolution (LTE) subscribers, Fierce Wireless reports. The figure was disclosed by Keith Terreri, the cellco’s vice president for finance, speaking at the Barclays Capital 2012 High Yield Bond and Syndicated Loan Conference. Terreri indicated that most 4G customers have gravitated towards the company’s USD50 and USD60 per month LTE plans, since its USD40 plan is capped at 100MB of data. However, the MetroPCS executive also said that the company is looking to add an additional, higher-priced tier to its LTE plans in a bid to recoup the substantial investment in its network. Going forward, Terreri described the acquisition of more spectrum as MetroPCS’ primary strategic priority, indicating that the cellco has between USD1 billion and USD1.5 billion to spend on additional frequencies. Further, he reiterated comments made previously by other MetroPCS executives, suggesting that the company is interested in sourcing capacity from Clearwire or using its under-deployment TD-LTE infrastructure as an overlay for network hotspots. He also said that MetroPCS is exploring the option of buying spectrum or capacity from satellite TV giant turned aspirant wireless player DISH Network. Terreri commented: ‘In our markets we prefer to own the spectrum, and therefore we can control the customer experience. Outside of our markets, we’re going to need partners, particularly from a 4G perspective, we’re going to need roaming’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in September 2010 MetroPCS became the first cellco in the US to launch a network based on the LTE platform when it switched on its commercial 4G network in Las Vegas. The following month LTE was made available in Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and in December was extended to New York, Sacramento and Boston. The cellco went on to launch in all 14 of its core markets by April 2011, culminating with Tampa, Florida. In contrast market leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility currently claim LTE coverage of 200 and 28 cities respectively. Terreri also acknowledged that MetroPCS’ LTE network offers slower speeds than those of its larger counterparts, without specifying transmission speed details.