By Thomas Gryta 

MetroPCS Communications Inc. (PCS) will launch a new wireless plan this week to provide unlimited data on its next-generation network, as the carrier aims to keep up with larger players in the competitive smartphone environment.

The Dallas-based, pay-as-you-go carrier made a bet four years ago to upgrade its network using fourth-generation LTE technology and is pushing customers to use the more efficient system. Part of that strategy will include offering higher-profile devices to customers, but the company is cautious to make the costly and risky commitment to get Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) popular iPhone.

MetroPCS will offer unlimited talk, text and data on its fourth-generation LTE network for $55 a month starting Thursday, under a promotional offer that could last three to six months, Chief Operating Officer Thomas Keys said in an interview. The no-contract plan is branded "LTE for All."

When the promotion ends, the price goes up to $70 a month, its current price for unlimited data, Mr. Keys said.

In comparison, basic wireless plans for smartphones operating on LTE networks from rivals start around $70 but frequently cost more than that and can include restrictions on either voice or data usage.

The company also is launching a new LTE smartphone, the LG Motion 4G, adding to its portfolio of devices that work on the network. It plans to launch several more by year-end.

MetroPCS will offer the popular Samsung Galaxy S III on its network, although Mr. Keys wouldn't give an expected launch date. The company is currently testing the phone, he said.

While the next generation iPhone is expected to use LTE technology, Mr. Keys expressed caution about bringing such a device to the MetroPCS network because of the purchase commitments that Apple often demands of carriers. Rival Leap Wireless International Inc. (LEAP) struck a three-year deal with Apple to spend $900 million on iPhone volume purchases.

"I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face," Mr. Keys said of carrying the iPhone. While he would like to offer the device, he worries that having to push the iPhone would damage long-term relationships with other phone manufacturers. He declined to comment on any talks with Apple.

Although the Galaxy S III has a similar price point to the iPhone, it doesn't have the purchase commitment. He estimates that only 2% or so of MetroPCS users would be interested in such a high-end phone, equating it to a "Cadillac in the showroom."

Wireless carriers subsidize smartphones by hundreds of dollars for customers that sign a two-year contract and charge higher monthly prices, while prepaid plans generally have a lower monthly bill but require a much higher upfront payment for the phone.

MetroPCS operates in 17 markets with a network that covers about 104 million people, Mr. Keys said. Its LTE network is rolled out on 97% of its cell sites. It first launched the network in late 2010.

All the major U.S. carriers are rolling out LTE networks, with Verizon Wireless in the lead, followed by AT&T Inc. (T), Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) and Deutsche Telekom's (DTE.XE, DTEGY) T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group PLC (VOD, VOD.LN).

Write to Thomas Gryta at

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