MetroPCS' voice over LTE Hail Mary
Moving voice traffic to LTE allows MetroPCS to free up its CDMA spectrum, repurposing it for LTE
Published: 30 April, 2012
The awful first quarter results which MetroPCS posted last week underscore a problem facing CDMA carriers as they migrate to LTE, and it's no surprise that MetroPCS is staking its rebound on voice over LTE (VoLTE) smartphones that it hopes to debut in the second half of the year.
Roger Linquist, MetroPCS' CEO, acknowledged that his company's Q1 earnings were well-below expectations, and laid much of the blame on the growing competition in 3G data services.
While the pure IP nature of LTE is the cellular standard's core strength, its native lack of support for voice forces carriers migrating to the technology to perform the juggling act of leveraging the data capability of LTE while at the same time maintaining, and investing in, their 2G/3G infrastructure for voice services. A (relatively) small carrier like MetroPCS which is migrating from CDMA to LTE is locked into using portions of its spectrum for CDMA for continued voice services.
The solution is to leverage VoLTE, which voice-enables the LTE standard, allowing carriers to push voice over their LTE network. For MetroPCS, moving voice traffic to LTE will allow it to free up its CDMA spectrum, repurposing it for LTE. Ed Chao, the carrier's senior VP for engineering and network operations was explicit on the importance of this: "If you keep voice on CDMA and data only on LTE, which is kind of what we're doing today before VoLTE, you're not able to refarm. So, for us, it's extremely important to have VoLTE so we can get that traffic off of CDMA and get ourselves refarmed fully to LTE."
Not only does VoLTE offer unique advantages in lowering a carrier's voice infrastructure economics, but it also promises to improve voice quality, device battery life and user experience by allowing concurrent voice and data services over a single LTE radio interface. According to a recently released report, ARCchart forecasts that revenues generated from VoLTE services will reach $2 billion by 2016, representing a CAGR of nearly 390% between 2012 and 2016.
MetroPCS aims to launch two to three smartphones with VoLTE capability in the second half of the year, one of which will be manufactured by Samsung (no OEM details were given about the other devices). Seeding its customer base with these VoLTE handsets and quickly growing a sufficiently large installed base will be an urgent goal for the mobile operator. It's currently expecting to start refaming spectrum in 2013 and is banking on this bringing about a significant boost to its network capacity.
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- MetroPCS' voice over LTE Hail Mary - Apr 30