MetroPCS Changes Course on 4G Voice

The combined MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) and T-Mobile US Inc. might abandon MetroPCS's plans to support voice over LTE (VoLTE), according to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing Tuesday.

The filing, a PowerPoint presentation by T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray, seems to indicate that VoLTE handset users would be migrated to plain old LTE handsets.

MetroPCS was the first U.S. carrier to launch VoLTE. Most other operators worldwide are putting off the technology until 2013 or later.

MetroPCS representatives did not respond to a call for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Why this matters
Quick VoLTE deployment could be a way for operators to deflect interest in over-the-top voice and messaging applications, but it's apparenlty not going to happen in the United States. Verizon Wireless revealed on Tuesday that VoLTE would arrive on its network late in 2013. (See MobileCON 2012: Verizon Beats 2012 4G Target.)

It's not as if VoLTE has been roundly defeated. MetroPCS has only 744,000 subscribers, and only high-end users were expected to use VoLTE. But for anyone rooting for the technology, it's an unpleasant surprise.

Count Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT) shareholders in that group. The company, which sells session border controllers could be used in VoLTE deployments, were down $1.31 (7.3 percent) at $16.68 on Tuesday. "We believe investors had been optimistic that the T-Mobile-PCS merger may have been a catalyst to accelerate commercial VoLTE deployment," wrote analyst Joanna Makris of Mizuho in a note published Tuesday.

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— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:19:28 PM
re: MetroPCS Changes Course on 4G Voice

It is possible that we're looking at the eventual goal for T-Metro New Co, i.e. where they get to by 2015. They may not have included VoLTE as a target because it is expected to be a standard part of LTE by then.


As I said, MetroPCS must have invested a lot in VoLTE, seems weird that they'd simply drop it straight away.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:19:28 PM
re: MetroPCS Changes Course on 4G Voice

Do you think the pictogram slide really says MetroPCS is walking away from VoLTE? Dan pointed out that they've put a lot of effort into promoting VoLTE and RCS.

I'm kind of going with the conventional wisdom that seemed to develop during the day on Tuesday - but I'd be open to hearing other interpretations.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:19:25 PM
re: MetroPCS Changes Course on 4G Voice

I have to agree with Dan and Craig.  Just because VoLTE isn't shown, if they decided to drop VoLTE then what would they use for voice?  Sure they could drop back to 3G or 2G, but that seems like a very ill-conceived plan.  If you get rid of VoLTE then you might as well as get rid of LTE.  Sticking with the 3G network T-Mobile has would be better.  LTE is more than just higher speeds, it is also about convergence.

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