Ecuadorian state-owned telecoms operator CNT has launched LTE services for smartphones, putting it further ahead of its local rivals in the 4G landgrab.

CNT is advertising its new services on its Website. 4G smartphone plans start at US$29 per month plus tax; for that price customers get 2 GB of data, 100 voice minutes and unlimited messages. The most expensive package costs $99.99 and comes with 9 GB of data.

Previously the company offered 4G services via dongles and 3G data plans, according to BNamericas.

The Latin American news specialist notes that while CNT is stealing a march on its larger rivals, being the only company in the country to hold a 4G licence, it is still a minnow in market share terms.

It controlled just 3.5% of Ecuador's mobile lines as of the end of July. At the same date America Movil's Claro claimed a 68.1% market share and Telefonica's Movistar 28.5%.

CNT was awarded 70 MHz of spectrum in the 700-MHz and AWS bands for 4G services towards the end of 2012. The government is expected to carry out a 4G spectrum allocation process before the end of this year. However, according to BNamericas, which cites Ecuadorian telecoms operator association Asetel, negotiations between the state and the country's telcos are at a standstill due to "excessive demands" on the part of the government.