After months of delays and promises, MetroPCS has officially become the first carrier in the world to roll out VoLTE service over its LTE network, beating South Korean carriers LGU Plus and SKTelecom by 12 hours, as both of those companies will be rolling out their VoLTE implementations tomorrow morning.
With the roll out, MetroPCS can now focus on moving its customer base from its 1x CDMA network to LTE for both voice and data, which is expected to develop in significant savings for the carrier as it recovers from the uncertainty of the failed Sprint purchase offer made earlier this year.
With the release of an updated LG Connect first in the Dallas area with VoLTE support and the Samsung Lightray 4G this past weekend, MetroPCS is implementing the first stages of its 4G For All network transition initiative, an initiative that will see it release progressively cheaper LTE capable phones during the remainder of the year in order to convert customers onto its LTE network in markets where the carrier typically relies on AWS spectrum for both CDMA and LTE service, meaning that service will markedly improve for customers with VoLTE capable phones at the expense of CDMA service, which the carrier desperately wants to rid itself of as soon as possible in order to make better use of the spectrum it does have and improve services for current customers.
To that end the carrier is taking great pains to emphasize that the VoLTE capability will be in use regardless of LTE device on outgoing calls, with incoming calls also being carried by VoLTE regardless of the network originating the call. The updated VoLTE capable LG Connect 4G is currently being sold in Dallas-area MetroPCS corporate stores at the same price as the one currently sold online, with a wider launch within the next weeks across its coverage area.
While Metro’s rush to be first has typically resulted in more problems than success regarding its LTE network, the fact that they delayed rolling out VoLTE service until now shows a shift in attitude for the carrier as it tries to work its way through the obstacles it currently faces in slower growth and difficulty in network expansion due to lack of spectrum. The roll out of VoLTE is also expected to vastly improve call quality compared to CDMA, as more bandwidth is being dedicated to voice transmission and encoding, resulting in clearer calls with more volume compared to the low transmission rate of CDMA calls.
Metro’s roll out of VoLTE will also serves as a bellwether for other LTE carriers as Verizon and Sprint are undergoing their own transitions away from 3G CDMA with differing strategies in play in order to extract the most efficiency out of their own nascent networks and no real statements from either side on whether they will move to VoLTE in the near future other than standard fluff comments with vague timelines and equally vague device support.