Metro PCS announced the launch of the first commercially available LTE 4G network in the country in Las Vegas. Customers can sign up for $55 to $60 a month with a $299 Samsung Craft feature phone. Yes, you read that correctly. As of yet, the prepaid MetroPCS has no smartphone--but for now the company offers unlimited talk, text and 4G data for $55 a month.
The Craft has a 3.3-inch AMOLED screen, a 2GB microSD card (preloaded with the 2009 film "Star Trek"), a 3.2MP camera and camcorder, Wi-Fi capability, a combo touch screen with TouchWiz, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. MetroPCS also offers updated navigation software and a program to manage social networks.
For the $60 plan, customers get access to MetroSTUDIO, which has content including on-demand premium video with 18 channels, multimedia and ringtones.
The Dallas-based company plans to roll out the network in more than a dozen cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, by the end of 2011. Verizon Wireless plans on rolling out its LTE 4G network in 30 cities by the end of this year.
Judging from the device's specs, this was MetroPCS's low-cost alternative for customers who mainly want to use social networks and video but with faster speed, according to GigaOm. Let's look at some of the advantages and disadvantages for a business buying some of the handsets.
1. The No-Contract MetroPCS Plan
One of the great things about MetroPCS is its lack of contracts and pay-as-you-go policy. It gives owners flexibility and the option of terminating the agreement any time.
2. Unlimited Voice, Text and Data
Unlimited voice, text and data use on an LTE 4G network for a $55 monthly rate is a relatively inexpensive and fixed price, which makes it easy for a company to budget phone service.
3. The Samsung Craft
Although not a smartphone, the Samsung is capable of doing quite a few things--including cellular calls, social networking, browsing the Web, and downloading and shooting video.
1. No Smartphones
While the Samsung Craft is a decent-enough phone, business owners may want their employees on a full-fledged operating system to be able to do their work. Although MetroPCS says an Android smartphone is in the works for next year, as of yet there have been no definitive announcements.
2. Limited LTE 4G Coverage
Although MetroPCS plans to roll out its LTE 4G network into more cities by the end of 2011, unless your company is in one of those major markets it's unlikely it will get the network, and so far it's unclear if there will be roaming fees for data usage.
Although not being locked into a contract is generally considered a good thing, MetroPCS's latest price plans are not overly aggressive. Some smart negotiating and buy-one-get-one free promotions could beat any cost savings for using the prepaid carrier.
During the recession, interest in prepaid wireless plans has grown, and MetroPCS may be in a prime position to capitalize on it. While it's true that MetroPCS's new plan will give buyers a first taste of an LTE 4G network, I think it may be better to wait a few months so a customer can choose a handset and operating system he or she really wants, rather than picking a handset and plan with a lot of speed and no place to go.
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.