US regional operator MetroPCS is said to be on track to switch on its first LTE networks next month, making it the first operator in the country to do so. The operator is also thought to be launching the first US LTE smartphone – the Samsung Craft – at the same time. Although the operator has not confirmed launch details, Dow Jones Newswires reports that a Samsung executive has confirmed that MetroPCS will begin offering LTE services in Las Vegas and Dallas in September. A spokesman for MetroPCS would only confirm that the launch would happen “later this year.” A launch of LTE services and devices next month would put MetroPCS – the country’s fifth-largest operator – well ahead of larger national rival Verizon Wireless in the race to provide LTE; Verizon Wireless plans to launch LTE networks before the end of the year – possibly beginning 15 November -but does not expect to offer a LTE-compatible smartphone until next year.

The Samsung Craft – known officially as the SCH-R900 – was approved by the US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, earlier this month – paving the way for it to become the first LTE phone available for sale in the US. According to US website, Unwired View, it features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a touchscreen display and a 3.2MP camera; it is expected to cost US$300 outside of a contract. The device falls back onto CDMA networks when out of LTE coverage.