Published: 30 July, 2010
The FCC has given the thumbs-up to the first LTE phone destined for the US, the Samsung SCH-R900. Unveiled at CTIA earlier this year, the phone will be carried by MetroPCS, and not Clearwire or Verizon as some expected. Launching on a smaller carrier is an unusual move since the handset's data capability will put an unprecedented strain on the MetroPCS network.
Little is known about the phone at the moment except that it will be CDMA compatible and will support Wi-Fi, suggesting the device could be a smartphone, but neither Samsung or MetroPCS have publicly confirmed or denied this. A picture is available on the FCC site giving an idea of the shape of the phone, though most of the detail has been blanked out.
LTE supports speeds up to ten times faster than 3G. Verizon has also been testing the 4G technology in Boston and Seattle, and plans to roll out to between 20-30 cities later this year but has announced no supporting handsets as yet.
A challenge for MetroPCS is that it only holds narrow bands of spectrum in most cities and is overlaying LTE on CDMA in its AWS frequencies, whereas Verizon has new spectrum for LTE. Depending on the situation, it could deploy 1.4MHz, 5MHz or 10MHz LTE channels. At 1.4MHz, LTE would not deliver data rates beyond 3G levels, about 2-3Mbps, but at 10MHz, CDMA voice quality and capacity could suffer.
MetroPCS has also given Samsung a rare LTE infrastructure win. The Korean firm is hardly visible in the first wave of LTE trials, despite its experience and success in the other OFDMA mobile broadband standard, WiMAX. Ericsson is also supplying MetroPCS.
Las Vegas will be MetroPCS' first city for its LTE network, expected to go online later this year. By securing a handset like this before anyone else, MetroPCS might place pressure on the major US carriers to match its flat rate pricing.