UPDATED: Verizon adding VoLTE capability in 2012

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will likely add Voice over LTE functionality to its LTE smartphones sometime in 2012, the carrier said.

Brian Higgins, Verizon's executive director for ecosystem development, told CNN that next week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Verizon plans on demonstrating a smartphone, the LG Revolution, that takes advantage of the technology.

Last year, Verizon Communications CTO Tony Melone said that Verizon would add VoLTE by late 2012 or early 2013, when the carrier's LTE footprint will be larger. VoLTE is an IMS-based take on delivering voice via LTE that was launched by the GSMA at the 2010 Mobile World Congress trade show.

Verizon has not indicated how much its VoLTE service will cost, and has not given any clear indications on what its data pricing will be for LTE smartphones. Nonetheless, the carrier is touting the advantages of VoLTE, including enhanced call clarity and the ability to conduct a voice session and surf the Web at the same time--a function currently unavailable on the carrier's CDMA network.

Verizon launched LTE services in December across 39 markets covering around 110 million POPs. The carrier currently offers service via two USB modems and provides 5 GB of LTE data for $50 per month or 10 GB of data for $80 per month on either a two-year contract or a no-contract basis; both options carry a $10 per GB overage charge. Verizon said in January that it recorded 65,000 net LTE customer additions in the first three weeks of the service's availability, and that 41 percent of those customers were new to Verizon. Verizon plans to add 140 LTE markets in 2011.

Flat-rate carrier MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) said in November that it will begin testing Voice over LTE in first quarter--a move the company said will lessen the cost of transmitting voice calls. MetroPCS, which offers LTE service in 13 markets, with plans for a 14th market in Tampa, Fla. The company plans to expand its LTE network and offer up to six LTE handsets this year.

For more:
- see this CNN article
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Article updated Feb. 8 to reflect that the LG Revolution will not be launching with Voice over LTE functionality this year; Verizon will likely launch the service sometime in 2012. Additionally, MetroPCS has LTE service live in 13 markets, not nine as originally stated.