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MetroPCS expects half-dozen LTE-ready Android phones in 2011

The carrier expects to follow up its Optimus M with an Android phone as early as February.

MetroPCS plans to follow the release of the LG Optimus M handset with its first Android-based LTE smartphone in the first quarter of 2011. Due as early as February, this handset will be the first of as many as six Android phones for the carrier in the coming year.

MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist highlighted Android at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference today and teased handset prices that could start as low as $150 unsubsidized, up to the $400-$500 range. Currently, MetroPCS offers a feature phone, the Samsung Craft, as its only LTE-capable device.

If you had asked me a year ago if I expected to see so many Android phones under $100 with a contract, I would have said no. Looking forward into next year, however, I think that many will be surprised at how low the price point will go for prepaid phones.

Linquist advised that MetroPCS plans to use Android to help migrate its customers away from its CDMA network over to its growing LTE network. All Android handsets in the MetroPCS lineup will come with a VoLTE (Voice over LTE) application preloaded. According to Linquist, customers will enjoy the MetroPCS app so much that they may not want to choose another VoIP alternative.

With roughly 8 million customers, MetroPCS is the fifth-largest carrier in the United States after T-Mobile, which has almost 33 million subscribers. Even so, it's carriers like MetroPCS and U.S. Cellular that are beating their bigger rivals with new customer service campaigns. I hope that these smaller guys make enough noise that companies like Verizon and AT&T are forced to adapt their business models.