MetroPCS: $100 LTE Smartphones in 2012?
MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) says it will be able to support millions of users on Long Term Evolution (LTE) next year as it looks to offer substantially cheaper 4G Android smartphones in the second half of 2012.
MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist -- talking on the operator's third-quarter earnings call Tuesday morning -- promised that 4G smartphones, priced between $99 and $150, will be available to customers in the second half of 2012. This should be the out-of-the-door price, as MetroPCS sells pay-as-you-go plans rather than requiring a two-year contract. (See MetroPCS LTE Revamp Set for 2012.)
LTE phones from the operator currently run from $349 to $299, although the operator is currently offering a $100 mail-in rebate for two of three LTE phones available.
MetroPCS is working with "four and five handset vendors" to both make the LTE phones cheaper and add voice-over-IP support (VoLTE) to the 4G handsets in 2012, says COO Tom Keys. CEO Linquist says that it wants to add VoLTE so it can migrate its CDMA customers to LTE and eventually re-farm its existing spectrum.
Keys promises that these cheaper handsets should still feature four-inch screens "or bigger," better cameras and improved battery life. Keys hinted that the operator will continue to work with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), while adding 4G phones from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) and others.
"Our eventual goal is to move all of our customers to LTE," says Linquist. "Since the beginning of 2010, we've added over 2.5 million customers."
The operator is currently working on updating its network with microwave and fiber backhaul so it can offer better capacity and higher LTE download speeds, and this work is expected to be done by the end of this year. Linquist says that MetroPCS should be able to support "over 10 million users" on LTE once the upgrades are completed. (See MetroPCS Preps to Bring LTE for All.) MetroPCS badly needs cheaper LTE phones to become available. It is spending on smartphone promotions because its current LTE phones are too expensive for its customer base.
For the third quarter, MetroPCS' net income for the quarter fell to $69.3 million, or $0.19 per share, on revenues of $1.21 billion, from $77.2 million, or $0.22 per share a year ago, on revenues of $1.02 billion in the same quarter in 2010. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected earnings per share of $0.23 for the third quarter. (See MetroPCS Reports Q3 Profit of $69M.)
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile