Over the past several years, we've been predicting that mobile carriers would soon begin to offer a native voice service over data, and several have come close to meeting our expectations by delivering VoIP over a mobile (cellular) data channel. As an example of mobile voice over data, back in early 2010, we reported on a partnership between Verizon Wireless and Skype to offer a Skype mobile app, and we have since covered several similar alternatives. But today, we are report our first sighting of a commercial Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service that is being offered by MetroPCS.
While availability is initially limited to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the company said in a statement it will continue to roll out VoLTE services and phones to other MetroPCS service areas in the coming weeks. The company is also selling the new VoLTE-capable LG Connect 4G Android smartphone at select U.S. stores.
Roger Linquist, chairman and chief executive officer of MetroPCS, said in a statement, "Being the first operator globally to reach this industry first speaks volumes about our company's innovative spirit and passion to achieve goals that we believe will have long-term benefit for our customers and for the company."
He continued, "The initial move to LTE and this move to VoLTE allow us to achieve significant spectral efficiencies and will increase network capacity so that we can enhance the 4G LTE experience that our customers have today at a tremendous value. VoLTE also provides a foundational capability for future Rich Communication Services (RCS), which we plan to launch later this year."
With the new service, calls to and from the handset will use VoLTE, but they can connect to the called party regardless of the handset or network used on the other end. MetroPCS began to deploy its 4G LTE network in September 2010 and it has since built out the 4G LTE network to cover about 90% of its footprint.
Our observation: With this announcement, we can finally cross off our VoLTE from our "coming soon" list. Now we'll have to think of something else to add to next year's predictions.