Regional wireless operator MetroPCS achieved an important industry milestone on Tuesday by becoming the first carrier in the nation to launch fourth-generation (4G) wireless network services that are based on long-term evolution (LTE) technology. The debut of MetroPCS’ LTE service in Las Vegas, Nevada precedes the widely-anticipated launch of Verizon’s LTE network in 30 major markets later this year as well as AT&T’s projected LTE rollout in 2011. Until Tuesday, the Clearwire venture led by Sprint-Nextel has been the sole provider of 4G wireless services in the U.S., although Clearwire’s 4G network is based on the rival WiMax standard. MetroPCS, which boasted 7.6 million subscribers nationwide as of the second quarter and has built its business on pre-paid services, has promised to extend its contract-free policy to its LTE service package. The company’s LTE subscribers will be charged $55 per month for unlimited voice calls, text messaging, and data. Access to NBC Universal TV shows and other premium video content will also be offered for an additional $5 monthly charge. Samsung Electronics, which supplied equipment for the Las Vegas LTE build out, will produce a dual-mode handset, dubbed The Craft, which is capable of operating on the MetroPCS LTE and CDMA networks and will retail for $299 after a $50 rebate. In remarks to reporters, MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist said that 4G smart phones based on Google’s Android operating platform and other LTE-capable handsets would be added to the MetroPCS product portfolio by the first quarter of 2011. Linquist also affirmed that his company’s LTE service will be expanded to Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and other key markets by the end of this year and in 2011.