MetroPCS snags first LTE Android phone

Samsung Galaxy Indulge goes on sale later this week

MetroPCS is aiming to become the "little carrier that could" as far as LTE is concerned.

Not only was the carrier the first to officially offer 4G LTE services in the United States, but it's now also snagged the first commercially-available LTE-based Android phone. The Samsung Galaxy Indulge, yet another device in Samsung's line of Android-based Galaxy devices, is slated to go on sale for $399 later this week. The phone features Android 2.2 ("Froyo"), a slideout QWERTY keyboard and a 1GHz processor.

LTE in 2011: Curb your enthusiasm

MetroPCS is a relatively small carrier from a national perspective, as its roughly 8 million subscribers are dwarfed by both Verizon and AT&T, which each boast in excess of 90 million subscribers nationwide. Despite its small size, MetroPCS beat all its big-name rivals to the punch last year when it debuted its LTE network in Las Vegas, more than two months before Verizon conducted its own commercial launch. The carrier specializes in prepaid wireless voice and data services that offer users less costly alternatives to contract-based postpaid services. The company offers users no-contract LTE service plans that range anywhere from $40 to $60 a month that include unlimited talk and Web browsing.

Verizon, currently the only major carrier to offer 4G LTE services in the United States, made a splash at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by unveiling 10 different LTE-based devices due to be released later this year. Among the most buzz-worthy were the Motorola XOOM, which will be the first device to run on Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb"); an LTE-capable version of the popular Samsung Galaxy Tab; and the HTC Thunderbolt.

AT&T hasn't officially announced any devices that will run on its upcoming LTE network, although the company says that it will have its LTE services up and running commercially in select markets starting this summer.

LTE - which stands for Long Term Evolution - is a GSM-based wireless data standard that has been adopted by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile as their choice for 4G wireless technology. So far, tests of commercially deployed LTE technology have shown it can deliver average download speeds in the 7M to 12Mbps range, although these speeds are likely to decline once more users subscribe to the services.

Along with mobile WiMAX, LTE is part of a new breed of wireless technology that aims to give users a wireless Internet experience that matches or exceeds the speed of most wireline broadband connections.

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