MetroPCS completes LTE footprint
With 14-market footprint finished, Metro turns to network infill
MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) flipped the ‘on’ switch on its network in Tampa, Fla., rolling out the final market in its 14-city footprint. According to chief operating officer Tom Keys, Metro would have launched Tampa back in January when it completed the rest of the its launch (Unfiltered: MetroPCS LTE rollout complete but for one market), but spectrum issues prevented it from going live on its original timeline.
“It wasn’t for lack of desire, or an issue with technology,” Keys said. The Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) spectrum was still occupied by its previous tenant, and it took longer than in other markets to clear up the airwaves, Keys explained.
MetroPCS is now focused on building up its networks inwards rather than outwards. It’s initial LTE rollout targeted its busiest cell sites in its 14 markets. Phase II will now address CDMA cell sites in its footprint that haven’t yet received the LTE treatment. “Our goal is to have a complete overlay,” Keys said.
After filling the holes, MetroPCS plans to take a closer look at its CDMA network. It plans to start testing VoIP over LTE (VoLTE) this year with the hope of offering an all IP voice service next year. Once it starts moving more voice traffic to VoIP, MetroPCS will start switching off CDMA 1X carriers and aggregating their capacity into the LTE network, giving it more bandwidth for both data and enhanced voice services, Keys said.
What happens beyond that largely depends on what happens among the competition and regulators in the next few years. Keys said that AT&T’s (NYSE:T) proposed acquisition of T-Mobile (NYSE:DT) may require the combined operator to divest spectrum in key MetroPCS markets or the FCC may award or auction off new spectrum (CP: MetroPCS unopposed to a combined AT&T-T-Mobile) “We’re opportunistic when it comes to spectrum acquisition,” Keys said.
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