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MetroPCS joining the LTE spectrum battle with 500k users

MetroPCS is going to need more LTE spectrum, and soon, if the carrier is going to convert more of its 9 million customers to 4G.

Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G
Josh Miller/CNET

The Big Four wireless carriers may be warring for LTE spectrum the loudest, but don't forget that smaller carriers like MetroPCS are also caught up in the battle.

The nation's fifth-largest provider needs to reinforce and expand its 4G network to support its 500,000 total LTE subscribers, suggested MetroPCS' Keith Terreri, vice president of finance and treasurer. That's about 5 percent of the no-contract carrier's 9.34 million customers, Fierce Wireless reported.

MetroPCS has deployed LTE to 14 of its markets, and was the first carrier to launch a LTE phone.

Perhaps even more than its rivals, MetroPCS's fate rides on its ability to convert customers to LTE-ready handsets. MetroPCS delivers a slower-than-average 4G, which Terreri and others have previously acknowledged; however, its 4G significantly outpaces the prevailing 2.5G network, also known as 1XRTT. Without a 3G network, the carrier has little to fall back on.

In fact, MetroPCS is making 4G spectrum its top priority, Terreri said at the Barclays Capital 2012 High Yield Bond and Syndicated Loan Conference. He added that MetroPCS can invest $1 billion to $1.5 billion. Verizon, meanwhile, is defending a deal for $3.6 billion.