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MetroPCS starts small with voice over LTE

Is being first such a big deal? Apparently MetroPCS believes so. Yesterday they issued a press release praising themselves for being the first carrier to introduce voice over LTE services. It was complete with puffed-up quotes from MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist, speaking of his company’s “innovative spirit and passion to achieve goals that will have long-term benefit for our customers and for the company.” Yet that overstates the scope of Metro’s voice over LTE debut: it is available at one store and on one handset. In this case, being first means very little.

The single voice over LTE handset, the LG Connect, is available at one store in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Customers who go to that one store and buy that one handset, which costs $250, will send and receive voice calls over MetroPCS’s LTE network. And it won’t make a lick of difference to them.

The industry is clearly shifting towards an all-data model. The biggest industry player, Verizon, offers unlimited talk and text on all of its new Share Everything plans — which new customers are required to adopt. AT&T has a similar plan that is scheduled to launch later this month. The message is clear: they’re preparing for voice and text over LTE networks, which really only works with an unlimited model.

That MetroPCS is first overstates the importance here. Yes, they beat the big players to the punch, but it’s a meaningless accomplishment. Customers will not notice much, if any, of a difference. At the same time, Verizon and AT&T have made preparations for a widespread voice over LTE launch. At the same time, they’ve in ways undercut MetroPCS by offering unlimited talk and text, both of which are mainstay features of MetroPCS’s platform.

The puffy and laudatory language might play well in some places, but ultimately it’s meaningless. Good on Metro for getting there first. But consumers will hardly notice a difference.