MetroPCS Communications Inc. is launching its high-speed 4G wireless network today in the Dallas area.

The launch coincides with the availability of Richardson-based MetroPCS' first 4G smart phone, the Samsung Craft.

MetroPCS is the first wireless carrier in the country to activate a 4G network based on a technology known as LTE. Sprint Nextel Corp. already has a 4G network up and running on a different standard known as WiMax

The prepaid carrier's 4G network became commercially available last week in Las Vegas, beating to market its larger rivals Verizon Wireless and Dallas-based AT&T Inc.

Verizon will begin rolling out its LTE network later this year; AT&T has said it will launch its 4G service next year.

But the first devices on both those companies' 4G networks are expected to be laptop cards and mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices.

MetroPCS opted to launch immediately with the $299 Craft phone from Samsung Telecommunications America, which is also based in Richardson.

Mobile Internet use on phones and tablets is surging, and MetroPCS, which skipped deploying a 3G network, knew it needed to cater to the changing habits of its customers.

Tom Keys, chief operating officer for MetroPCS, said video and social networking are increasingly important for mobile users, but many potential smart phone buyers are keeping their budgets tight.

"We get the ability to attract people who want a postpaid experience, but they want it under a prepaid paradigm," Keys said.

MetroPCS is charging a flat $55 or $60 monthly fee for the Craft. Both fees include unlimited voice and data, and the $60 service includes additional video services from NBC Universal and others.

MetroPCS has added about 1.4 million customers over the last year and finished the second quarter with more than 7.6 million subscribers.

Tracy Lange, vice president and general manager for MetroPCS in the Dallas, Detroit and Atlanta regions, said marketing for 4G in Dallas will be low-key for now.

Most of the company's 19 markets will be covered by the end of this year, with stragglers being blanketed by the end of 2011. That's when MetroPCS will begin a bigger advertising push for its 4G service.

Ericsson AB is building the LTE network for MetroPCS, and is also supplying the LTE equipment for AT&T and others. Ericsson's North American headquarters is in Plano.

Arun Bhikshesvaran, senior vice president of strategy and chief technology officer at Ericsson North America, said that much of the LTE development and design at the company is being done locally.

"Dallas is a big, big portion of the brains behind making this whole thing work," he said

Original Source: Victor Godinez; Dallas Morning News (