UK mobile operator EE is to introduce a Wi-Fi calling capability it announced today (20 June 2014). The carrier grade service will allow people to make calls, with a higher quality and greater degree of reliability than unmanaged VoIP services, from their home, office, corporate or public Wi-Fi connection.
Calls can be made through the phone’s native dialler, with no need to rely on an app. Native SMS services are also available through the Wi-Fi capability, EE said. The Wi-Fi calling service is set to launch in autumn 2014 on the latest handsets capable of supporting the service.
Fotis Karonis, CTO at EE, said: “Our Wi-Fi calling capability will let customers make calls where they have access to Wi-Fi but not to the mobile network. The customer experience is seamless, because it’s the same as making a network call and uses the normal call interface of the handset.
“This is a major part of our strategy to invest in giving customers the ability to make a call wherever they are, and we’re confident that this service can make a big difference to people in homes and large offices across the country, especially in the most rural areas, that don’t have mobile coverage.”
In recent demonstrations at the EE Test Lab, the company has also been showing live 4G call services (VoLTE), and will begin a trial later in 2014 using the 800MHz spectrum acquired in last year’s auction.
The trial will expand data and voice coverage, bringing service to a previously unconnected part of rural Oxfordshire. 800MHz spectrum has a significantly greater reach than 1800MHz spectrum, so can be used by EE to significantly increase the geographical coverage of its data and voice network.
A full commercial launch of the capability will follow in 2015, when the technology has had chance to mature so that the highest level of quality can be achieved, and the EE 4G network exceeds 90% population coverage – essential to a viable 4G voice service.
Karonis added: “4G calling, or VoLTE, is an exciting technology that we’re going to be trialling in the coming months using our low frequency spectrum, bringing one of the world’s best voice and data services to a part of rural Britain that has previously been unconnected. When we have rigorously tested the performance of 4G calling and made sure that it matches our 2G and 3G quality, we’ll launch it nationwide on our 4G network.”
HD Voice, a benefit of VoLTE, is widely available already on the EE network, with 3G coverage at greater than 98% and more than 5 million HD Voice-capable devices in use.
With the EE network now carrying more than 900 million calls each week, existing voice infrastructure is being upgraded on a week by week basis. More than 6,000 2G masts have had entirely new equipment installed in the last 18 months, and over 2,000 3G masts have had capacity doubled.
As a further part of this investment in phone calls – £275 million in 2013, and a further £275 million in 2014 – EE has also introduced three key initiatives to improve phone calls for its 26 million customers.
The capability of the MyEE App to identify when a device hits a whitespot, or ‘no service’ area, and ping the network to give its location. This enables the EE network teams to identify the exact spots where customers are not able to make calls, even in areas where coverage is generally good. The MyEE App is currently being used on more than half a million handsets
Dropped call rate
The nationwide ambition to halve the dropped call rate (DCR) in 2014, creating a world-leading call experience for customers. A rate of 0.4%, across both 2G and 3G, has already been consistently achieved in Derby, where the integration and optimisation of the EE network is at its most advanced stage
The ‘Platinum Project’, which aims to create a ‘zero defect’ phone call experience for customers in the busiest parts of the UK, giving the best possible quality of voice. Trial areas for the project include the entirety of the M25 Orbital, Canary Wharf and The Southbank in London.
EE network teams are walking and driving thousands of miles in these areas to identify any areas that need enhancing, and reconfiguring local masts to ensure the best possible service.