Sprint may have launched the first WiMax phone earlier this year, but MetroPCS (no, not Verizon Wireless) is hoping to launch the first handset with LTE 4G technology on board. In March, MetroPCS beat Verizon Wireless to the LTE punch by announcing the Samsung SCH-r900. Now, the FCC has officially approved the device for use in the U.S.
FCC approval doesn't always mean immediate availability, though MetroPCS had said it hoped to launch the LTE handset by "this summer." MetroPCS hasn't provided an update in recent months on the progress it is making with its LTE network, and hasn't said if or when its network or this device will actually launch. It could be months before MetroPCS is able to commercially offer LTE service.
We still don't know much about the r900. It uses the 1700/1900MHz spectrum that MetroPCS owns for LTE, standard CDMA voice technology, and also has Wi-Fi. When it was first announced, Samsung said that the r900 would have real-time streaming video-on-demand, Web browsing, music downloading and other features.
We also don't know what operating system it will run. Neither Samsung nor MetroPCS has said if it is a smart phone or a feature phone, though it would be unlikely for MetroPCS' first LTE handset to be a regular device. I'd be surprised if the r900 is anything other than an Android device
Verizon Wireless has been providing regular updates about its own LTE build-out. It has committed to launching in 25 to 30 markets later this year, though the first devices to be available are more likely to be laptop dongles than phones.
Earlier in July, the FCC approved the first known LTE laptop dongle, made by LG. The LG VL600 is a USB modem that has EVDO 850/1900MHz in addition to 700MHz LTE. Based on the spectrum supported by this device, it earmarks it for Verizon Wireless. Neither LG nor Verizon has officially announced this laptop modem.
Verizon Wireless is currently trialling LTE in Boston and Seattle.