MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) has long been dedicated to delivering wireless services to cost-conscious customers. But achieving that goal can be challenging when customers want more sophisticated smartphones that use lots of data.
As the head of engineering for MetroPCS' network, Ed Chao must use his engineering skills to carefully balance customer demands with keeping the company's network running efficiently and cost effectively. MetroPCS, which became the first U.S. operator to commercially deploy an LTE network in September 2010 using AWS spectrum, now offers LTE in 14 core markets.
But Chao faces several challenges in the year ahead. He and his team must keep the company's LTE deployment on track for its anticipated completion by third quarter of this year. That means not just deploying LTE base stations in all of its markets but also enhancing the network with small cells to provide additional capacity and improving backhaul to keep the data from getting backlogged. In addition, Chao must continue to deploy EV-DO in some of the company's CDMA cell sites to augment its 1XRTT data service, making data speeds faster so the network will serve as a bridge to the firm's LTE network.
In the meantime, Chao and his team are also under pressure to deploy VoLTE, which will allow MetroPCS to refarm its spectrum currently reserved for CDMA services. The company announced in October that it had completed its first VoLTE call using end-to-end commercial equipment, and it plans to launch VoLTE this year. This may prove challenging, considering fellow VoLTE advocate Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) reportedly might not deploy VoLTE nationwide until 2013, as opposed to its previous goal of late 2012.
Nevertheless, if Chao and MetroPCS succeed in deploying VoLTE in the timeframe they have outlined, the company will once again prove to be on the cutting edge of technology innovation.