MetroPCS Explores Spectrum Options

MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) is exploring its options for spectrum acquisition as it prepares to take Long Term Evolution (LTE) nationwide by the end of the year.

MetroPCS Chairman and CEO Roger Linquist outlined these options on the company's second-quarter earnings call this morning, including potential acquisitions from the AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) band or from Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), leasing spectrum from Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) or LightSquared , or getting in on spectrum that will likely have to be divested if AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s acquisition of T-Mobile US Inc. is approved.

What the pre-paid carrier decides to do will come down to the economics of each option, Linquist said. But all of these options, while coming from different bands of spectrum, are usable.

"There are different requirements and rules for each band which impact its economic value," Linquist explained, adding that the company will be disciplined and opportunistic in its decision-making process.

MetroPCS, which Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. calls the fastest-growing company in wireless, has increased its subscriber base by 19 percent in the last year, despite a slowdown in the second quarter. With a quarter of its subscribers currently using smartphones, increased data usage is driving its need for more capacity. (See MetroPCS Profit Up in Q2 .)

COO Tom Keys said the company will complete the majority if its LTE upgrades by the end of the year. Going into late 2012 and 2013, it is also exploring a microwave backhaul system to get the full benefit of downlink in LTE.

The carrier also plans to introduce a voice-over LTE handset next year, and Linquist said to expect prices to come down on 4G phones in mid-2012 to the second half of next year.

"We'll see (LTE) price declines in 2012, but the real effort we want to put forward will be in the second half of 2012," Linquist said.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:57:31 PM
re: MetroPCS Explores Spectrum Options

I should note that increased data usage is causing MetroPCS to look at boosting capacity on both its LTE and CDMA network (not just LTE). That's also going to cause it to increase capex from $700M to $900M now to $900M to $1 billion this year.

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 4:57:29 PM
re: MetroPCS Explores Spectrum Options

It's also interesting to see MetroPCS's timeline for a VoLTE handset launch - in 2012. That would match Verizon Wireless's schedule:



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