MetroPCS Blames 4G Voice Wait on Qualcomm
MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) is putting the pressure on handset manufacturers to produce lower-cost Long Term Evolution (LTE) smartphones and on the chipmakers to get voice-over LTE (VoLTE) chips ready for commercial service.
Speaking on the carrier's fourth-quarter earnings call, MetroPCS Chairman and CEO Roger Linquist said the contract-free carrier would have at least one, if not two, handsets with VoLTE in the second half of the year. It had initially planned services earlier this year, but he said right now the predominant chipset, the Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) 8960, is not fully baked. (See When Will Operators Bolt to VoLTE? and MetroPCS Plots LTE Smartphones, VoLTE Trials.)
"It's a 2013 reality," he said. "But we'll have at least one, if not two, handsets that are completely VoLTE capable. We see it as attractive, and we're ready to move when the industry is ready."
Qualcomm completed the first VoLTE call handed off from LTE to a WCDMA 3G network using Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) on the 3G/LTE multimode processor earlier this month. Even so, Linquist said there's still work to be done. And, MetroPCS COO Tom Keys added that the carrier is mitigating some of its risk of delay by looking to a few other chips, not just the 8960, for VoLTE.
The carrier is currently in VoLTE trials and is expected to be one of the first to launch the service in the U.S.
The IMS-based technology, which lets users make voice calls over the IP-based LTE network, will be important for MetroPCS, so it can re-farm its CDMA spectrum for LTE and sell its customers lower-cost smartphones, which it reiterated are so important to increasing its 4G subscriber base. (See MetroPCS: $100 LTE Smartphones in 2012?)
"We’re pushing for more affordable, high-performance handsets and services that deliver rich communications services," Linquist said.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile