MetroPCS CFO Braxton Carter has confirmed to investors attending theÂ Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Entertainment & Communications conference that the carrier has spent $100 million adding EV-DO data access to 20% of its cell site footprint in order to improve quality of service for its customers, mainly to relieve capacity issues.
While the carrier has completed most of its core network investments related to its nascent LTE network, it is also dealing with the biggest challenge inLTE compatible Â handset costs which are currently pegged at $200 per unit and will not be decreasing further until the end of next year, which means that the majority of its customer base that adopts smart devices are increasingly reliant on Wi-Fi for high-speed data access instead of the standard 1x data connection, a key point of contention for customers that want to take full advantage of Android, but are also driven to stay with the carrier due to its rate plans.
The carrier initially intended to roll out an EV-DO overlay across its entire network as early as 2007, but decided to skip rolling out EV-DO access in favor of additional investment in AWS spectrum and preparing for a rollout of LTE which began last year, as evidenced by its decision to roll out LTE service months before its much larger competitor Verizon Wireless, with mixed results.
As more and more customers adopt Android smartphones on MetroPCS, the carrier is looking for ways to drive customers to LTE, although it can’t discount current LTE phones further without losing money on each phone purchased on a per unit basis, nor can the carrier make a bigger push for LTE service rollouts due to its constrained position in terms of spectrum holdings until more and more people move to LTE, making this more of a rock and hard place issue for the carrier.
Because of this, it’s using the EV-DO rollout to emphasize that service is continually being improved while slowly ramping up its network for the eventual transition to LTE, which includes a rollout of VoLTE service in the near future. MetroPCS expects to be able to transition customers to VoLTE in order to free up additional spectrum currently used for CDMA and eventually repurpose it to expand LTE service, though timelines for the rollout and availability have yet to be confirmed.
The first handset to be launched by MetroPCS to include support for VoLTE service will be the LG Esteem, it being a less expensive variant of LG Revolution for Verizon Wireless and is expected to launch later this month for $379.99 with Android Gingerbread and a 5.0 megapixel camera along with LTE support.