MetroPCS will finally get the Samsung Galaxy S 4, but it’s not the S 4 that many imagined. Instead of getting a smartphone optimized for its CDMA and LTE networks, MetroPCS will start selling a GSM/HSPA+/LTE smartphone designed for new parent T-Mobile.
The new S 4 launch is a good sign that T-Mobile is not pussyfooting around with its plans to integrate MetroPCS into its operations. In fact, the MetroPCS website reveals that T-Mobile is now selling GSM devices in many of its major markets, expanding what was originally a 3-city pilot program. Customers in Atlanta; Boston; Dallas-Fort Worth; Hartford, Conn.; Las Vegas; New York City; Philadelphia and San Francisco can now choose between five phones that work on T-Mobile’s networks.
Last week I made the off-chance prediction that T-Mobile would try to accelerate its integration plans by soon announcing it would stop selling CDMA phones to Metro customers. But I also said that such a move would difficult to pull off in the near-term given due to behind-the-scenes complexities. Maybe I was wrong about how complex an operation this really is.
T-Mobile has a big media event in NYC on Wednesday, and it’s looking more and more likely that it will announce plans to nix new CDMA devices completely from Metro’s portfolio. It will continue to support current CDMA device users – all the way up until the end of 2015 – but because of Metro’s high turnover most of its customer base would likely make the switch to GSM far sooner.
The sooner Metro’s customers adopt GSM, the sooner T-Mobile can put Metro’s spectrum to use in its LTE network. And it doesn’t need every customer to get rid of their CDMA phones to start the network overhaul. T-Mobile can maintain a skeleton CDMA network using a minimal 5 MHz of spectrum for stragglers.
Also, as soon as MetroPCS is a fully functioning GSM operation, T-Mobile can extend the Metro brand from its dozen or so major metro markets to the entire country. After all, MetroPCS is just going to become an inexpensive, prepaid brand operating on T-Mo’s network, so it should be able to go wherever T-Mobile offers service.