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August 28, 2012

MetroPCS Blows Off HD Voice - For Now

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

While MetroPCS has laid claim to being the first carrier to roll out Voice over LTE (News - Alert) (VoLTE), it’s not supporting AMR-WB, and therefore does not support HD voice. The company has said it could roll out HD voice in the future, but appears to be promoting Rich Communications Services (RCS) as its big win feature over better voice quality. 

I’m not sure if there is an easy choice for MetroPCS; the independent carrier wants to get everyone over onto LTE so it can refarm/reuse its existing spectrum, but this means spectrum usage will be tight until everything is reorganized. Rolling up from around eight or so Kbps per side for a narrowband, as compared to 24 Kbps per second, to crank up AMR-WB and HD voice in its full glory makes sense from a scarcity perspective.

On the other hand, MetroPCS recently revealed its unlimited everything plan – talk, text, data – for LTE at $55 per month for a single line, down to $50 per month for lines two through four in a family. If you’ve got unlimited data, this opens up streaming movies and videos and two way video conferencing to take up more than 24 Kbps. 

MetroPCS executives were also promoting RCS during an August 22 event, reports Light Reading. Initial application offerings will include simultaneous video and Web browsing on the phone, along with a network address book. Care to square the bandwidth usage on a shared video & Web session with a simple HD voice call?

Yes, it doesn’t make sense.

RCS will enable enable seamless interoperability for video chats as well as text and voice between carriers , but it requires IPX (IP Exchange) to be enabled. You need IPX to do HD voice as well, so there’s no net gain or loss for offering both HD voice and RCS applications at the same time.

However, MetroPCS has to spend time educating customers about RCS apps that won’t be rolled out until later this year. HD voice is, well, HD voice. You can explain better quality voice calls in a 30-second sound clip, no elaborate video demos required.

Sprint (News - Alert) is already establishing itself as the U.S. leader in HD voice with its rollout of the service on its 3G CDMA network later this year and into 2013, with Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless expected to follow with HD voice as the default for its VoLTE service. 

MetroPCS had a unique opportunity to establish HD voice thought leadership in the U.S. with its VoLTE rollout, but instead has chosen to ride RCS. Will people switch carriers for great apps? The Apple (News - Alert) iPhone appears to be the only winner to that question, and it is now available nearly everywhere. RCS apps will be a simple download when they arrive, so there’s no urgency there.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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