To say that AT&T is disappointed with the Department of Justice’s decision to try and block it’s proposed merger with T-Mobile is a bit of an understatement. The company lashed out this week in a 25-page document claiming the DOJ’s claims that killing of T-Mobile will hurt competition shows a misunderstanding of the market, and dismissed competition from feisty young upstarts such as MetroPCS and US Cellular.
Regional carrier MetroPCS managed to get its 4G LTE network up and running before Verizon, and now they are out the door with the first LTE smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Indulge packs LTE data and a free copy of Iron Man 2 on the MicroSD card. How nice. Of course, that SD card is phoning home to the carrier, but what could go wrong?
MetroPCS continues to shuttle its no annual contract 4G LTE service into more locations, with the latest expansion effort focusing on Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami, and Orlando metropolitan areas, the wireless carrier announced. Customers in these and other 4G areas can access the high-speed network on the Samsung Craft, the first and so far the only commercially available 4G LTE handset, MetroPCS says.
"We continue to expand our network so more customers can experience the only no annual contract, unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE Web browsing service available today," said Roger D. Linquist, president, CEO, and chairman of MetroPCS. "MetroPCS is giving customers everything they want -- an affordable 4G LTE phone, more choices, and the best value in 4G LTE service to stay connected, be entertained, and do more -- without sacrificing time or money."
4G LTE plans start at $40 through MetroPCS, which includes unlimited talk, text, and Web. There are also $50 and $60 plans which up the ante with additional goodies like instant messaging, unlimited email access, and 4G On Demand with MetroSTUDIO ($60 plan). All three plans included unlimited YouTube.
If you thought Verizon was going to go it alone in their legal quest to overturn the FCC's recent net neutrality policy decision, you'd be wrong. But who has joined them in their fight? AT&T? Sprint? Nope, it's MetroPCS according to the Washington Post. The regional carrier may seem like an odd duck to be in this battle, but it isn't that surprising given their recent moves.
MetroPCS already has a 4G LTE network up and running in a few markets. What's more, the carrier is preparing to launch a Samsung Android phone with LTE baked in. Consumer interest groups have cried foul over MetroPCS' 4G rates, and their apparent blocking of some high-bandwidth applications depending on the plan. The FCC plan would not allow carriers to outright block content.
In a statement, MetroPCS President Roger Linquist said, "…the recent appeal filed by Verizon, and challenges raised by some proponents of Net Neutrality to MetroPCS’ recent 4G rate plans, have caused Metro PCS to appeal the FCC’s net neutrality order to ensure that the concerns of competitive wireless carriers." The FCC has been tightlipped about the new suit. It appears that even the much relaxed rules for wireless carriers are not going over well. Do you think the net neutrality plans will hold up?
MetroPCS has managed to piss off a bunch of public interest groups for violating the FCC's Net neutrality rules by blocking select Internet content, CNet reports.
Representatives from the Center for Media Justice, Free Press, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, and Presente.org sent a joint letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski complaining that MetroPCS is blocking or capping access to popular Internet applications and services, including Skype, Google Voice, and Netflix.
"MetroPCS appears to be in violation of the Commission's recently adopted Internet rules," the letter states. "Although these rules have not yet taken effect, the Commission must not use this as an excuse to ignore or delay action on MetroPCS's harmful practices."
The letter's authors say that even if MetroPCS claims it needs to limit VoIP services for its lowest service plan as a form of "reasonable network management," that argument should be dismissed.
"VoIP services require little bandwidth to operate, and contribute little congestion to broadband networks," the letter states. "Furthermore, the MetroPCS plans permit unlimited YouTube viewing, which (even if compressed) likely requires more bandwidth and creates more congestion than many VoIP communications."
Good news for MetroPCS customers living in the Boston, New York City, and Sacramento metropolitan areas, you now have access to the carrier's unlimited, no annual contract 4G LTE services.
"As the only no annual contract, pay-in-advance wireless service provider offering 4G LTE services, we continue to build our network to allow more customers to experience our unparalleled value and flexible, affordable service," said Roger D. Linquist, president, CEO and chairman of MetroPCS. "By offering customers the ability to do more with easy access to their social networks, exclusive MetroSTUDIO content and expanded web browsing capabilities, we are giving our customers what they need – a way to stay connected, without sacrificing time or money."
The caveat? MetroPCS only offers one phone that can take full advantage of its 4G network, the Samsung Craft. The Samsung Craft runs $299 after a $50 mail-in-rebate, while 4G service plans start at $55/month.
Hey, we get it, not everyone needs a full-featured smartphone complete with a pricey data plan. Samsung gets it too, hence the launch of the Samsung Messager III (SCH-R570).
The Messager III sports a 2.4-inch QVGA TFT display, but the real focus is on text messaging. It comes with a horizontal slide-out QWERTY keyboard, T9 predictive text, and threaded text messaging capabilities.
Other features include a built-in music player, 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth, 1.3MP camera, Widget support, and up to 16GB of expandable memory.
The Messager III is available at MetroPCS stores and online.
They said they were going to do it, and MetroPCS has beaten the big boys to the punch and launched the first 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) cellular network in the US. Customers will be able to get the Samsung Craft, the first LTE handset for $300 after rebate. MetroPCS is a prepaid carrier, so no subsidies are available, but the monthly cost is only $55 per month for unlimited calls, texts, and data.
The LTE service is currently only available in Las Vegas, but MetroPCS expects to expand into 18 markets in 2011. Users outside LTE areas will step down to 2G, as MetroPCS doesn't have a 3G network. While they may be first, MetroPCS will probably be eclipsed by Verizon when the larger carrier's LTE network goes live late this year.
This is a nice bonus for current users of MetroPCS, but it isn't likely to attract new users in droves. Even if the service we more widely available, the Samsung Craft is just a glorified feature phone with a keyboard and touchscreen. It may be nice PR for the carrier, but we'll wait for a better option.
In the wake of a major service outage a few weeks ago, fourth place US carrier T-Mobile may be shopping around for investment money from another US cell provider. Compared to the other US carriers, T-Mobile has a very small 3G footprint. Recognizing a need to expand, rumors indicate that parent company Deutsche Telekom is courting the likes of MetroPCS, Clearwire, and even AT&T.
Any of these investors would receive a small stake in T-Mobile in exchange for investment to expand their network. MetroPCS is of particular interest as the smaller carrier uses the same odd 1700Mhz 3G frequency that T-Mobile does. Collaboration with AT&T would be risky due to possible anti-trust allegations. AT&T is the only other GSM carrier in the US.
Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile UK was recently forced to merge with Orange UK. Could their US arm be headed in the same direction?
With this announcement, MetroPCS has stolen a march on Verizon, as the latter plans to offer such a LTE handset only in 2011, although it too plans to launch its LTE service in 2010.
“As the Internet goes ‘mobile’ we are excited to be at the forefront of this wireless evolution with the building out of our 4G broadband data services. We anticipate to begin offering our 4G LTE services and a dual-mode LTE/CDMA smartphone in our major metropolitan markets in late 2010,” said Roger D. Linquist, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of MetroPCS.