In a somewhat unexpected announcement today, MetroPCS became the first wireless network in the US to offer Voice Over LTE (or VoLTE) service for 4G LTE smartphones. MetroPCS was actually one of the first carriers to begin rolling out LTE because they just skipped building a 3G network, but their being the first to offer VoLTE service is still surprising, simply because the carrier isn’t one of the “big four” in the US. In fact, while the third larges carrier, Sprint, is just beginning to light up its LTE network, the much smaller prepaid MetroPCS is already offering a service that highlights one of the benefits of the faster LTE data networks.
Basically, what VoLTE does is transmit voice calls over the LTE network as regular data packets, instead of the older method used to transmit GSM and CDMA voice calls. With a good LTE network, the benefits of VoLTE are numerous: call quality should get much better, dropped calls will be more infrequent, and VoLTE may even save battery, because only a single LTE radio requires power. As such, MetroPCS’s VoLTE devices and services should provide a higher quality experience for calls, and better smratphone functionality in general.
Sadly, the rollout is currently starting only in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, meaning that most of us won’t be able to take advantage of the new technology just yet. Even if you are in a VoLTE area, you will be limited to one device choice: The LG Connect 4G, with Android. It may not be the greatest hardware, but both VoLTE coverage and the number of VoLTE devices should grow quickly, so patience will be rewarded soon enough.
While MetroPCS does get the honor of being the first carrier to roll out a commercial VoLTE network, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Verizon and AT&T have theirs up and running by the end of the year. However, you do have to give MetroPCS a little bit of credit. They don’t have the money or the subscriber count of the bigger carriers, yet they have managed to be the first ones to roll out an innovation and improvement to consumers. As a fan of contract free carriers and smartphones (and MetroPCS user for a few years), this is to me just another reason that in some ways prepaid carriers can be much better than their much larger counterparts.Obviously, this probably isn’t going to get anyone to switch to MetroPCS immediately, but it is still reassuring to see a small, no-contract carrier that is still working hard to provide consumers with a better smratphone experience.[The Verge]