MetroPCS launches VoLTE service via LG Connect smartphone

MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) became the first U.S. carrier to commercially launch a Voice over LTE device, announcing that its LG Connect 4G smartphone will now be sold with VoLTE support. South Korean carrier SK Telecom also just announced the launch of its VoLTE service. 

VoLTE LG Connect MetroPCS

LG Connect

The VoLTE version of the LG Connect 4G costs $249 before taxes and after rebate offers. Robert Wondoloski, staff vice president in the CTO office of MetroPCS, told FierceWireless that right now the VoLTE service is only available in the Dallas-Ft. Worth market. "We are working on optimization of the service in the other markets, which will roll out this year and into first quarter of next year," he said. "VoLTE capable handsets will be sold in these markets, and will become VoLTE activated when the market is optimized and launched."

The VoLTE service will not work on existing LG Connect smartphones that have been sold, and only the new VoLTE capable handset being distributed will offer this capability. MetroPCS said it intends to roll out additional VoLTE capable handsets later this year.

The carrier said the addition of VoLTE capabilities to its LTE handsets will be transparent to consumers and that calls to and from the handset will use VoLTE, regardless of the handset or network used on the other end of the call.

MetroPCS has long touted VoLTE as a solution that will allow it to migrate voice traffic to its LTE network, which is nearing completion, and then refarm the spectrum it is using for CDMA voice for LTE. The flat-rate carrier expects to launch two to three VoLTE phones by year-end. 

Mavenir, Acme Packet, Amdocs, Genband, Hewlett-Packard and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) have been among the vendors MetroPCS has worked with to deploy VoLTE. MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist and other executives have said that deploying VoLTE allows MetroPCS to lay the foundation for Rich Communications Services, which it expects to deploy by year-end.

Other U.S. carriers are also pursuing VoLTE. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), which has an LTE network covering 230 million people, will add the capability to its network later this year, Verizon Communications CTO Tony Melone has said. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) plans to have VoLTE in place by 2013, and Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) has said it will offer VoLTE when it launches its TDD-LTE network by the middle of 2013.

In South Korea, SK Telecom launched its own VoLTE offering and started selling the VoLTE-capable Galaxy S III. The carrier is marketing its service under the "HD Voice" name. SK Telecom said it plans to embed HD Voice as a basic feature in most of its LTE smartphones to be released in the future.

For more:
- see this MetroPCS release
- see this The Verge article
- see this Phone Scoop article
- see this SK Telecom release
- see this IDG News Service article

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