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MetroPCS Launches VoLTE To Increase Capacity

The carrier launched service in the Dallas-Fort Worth market and will roll out service to other markets in the coming weeks and into the first quarter of next year, a spokesperson said.

MetroPCS is using VoLTE (voice over LTE) technology to place voice calls, replacing circuit-switched calls.

The carrier’s first VoLTE handset is the LG Connect 4G, which is priced at $249 after rebates as was the previous version without VoLTE. Additional VoLTE handsets will also roll out in the coming weeks.

Calls can be made to and from VoLTE handsets regardless of the handset or network used at the other end of the call.

MetroPCS chairman/CEO Roger Linquist said LTE and VoLTE will “allow us to achieve significant spectral efficiencies and will increase network capacity so that we can enhance the 4G LTE experience.”

MetroPCS has expanded its 4G LTE network to cover about 90 percent of its 3G CDMA footprint.

 VoLTE is but one strategy that carriers plan to implement to contend with surging data usage that threatens to overwhelm network capacity, potentially slowing download speeds slow to a crawl and making video streams freeze repeatedly. Carriers that lack adequate amounts of spectrum could go out of business if they can’t offer competitive data services, said analyst Jeff Kagan.

Other strategies include adding more cell sites and purchasing more spectrum. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also plans to auction off TV spectrum that broadcasters want to voluntarily relinquish, and the FCC is identifying new spectrum that could be opened up to commercial wireless use.

“The proliferation of high-end handsets, tablets and laptops on mobile networks is a major generator of [data] traffic because these devices offer the consumer content and applications not supported by previous generations of mobile devices,” network-equipment supplier Cisco said in its “2011-2016 Mobile Data Forecast.” Smartphone users on average generate 35 times the data traffic of standard cellular feature phones, while tablet users generate 121 times the data traffic of feature-phone users, Cisco found.

As a result, data traffic over U.S. cellular networks is growing annually at triple-digit percentage rates, exceeding carriers’ own projections, Cisco said. In 2012, Cisco forecasts North American cellular-data usage will grow 118 percent to 259.3TB per month and grow 1,551 percent between 2011 and the end of 2016.