EE became the first UK network to launch WiFi Calling today (7 April 2015). The operator said it will make calls and texts available in every WiFi-connected home and small office in the UK.
WiFi Calling will help over four million people who say they lose mobile connection in at least one room in their house, EE said. The recent survey of connectivity in the home also found that a quarter of people in the UK work from home at least one day per week and 20% of those lose connectivity during the day, so WiFi Calling will be a big benefit to the country’s increasingly mobile workforce.
As well as helping people across the UK in homes and small/home offices, WiFi Calling can also change the value of homes, the operator claimed, citing Simon Gerrard, president, National Association of Estate Agents, who said: “Mobile coverage is becoming increasingly important to people when they’re buying a house – innovations like this can help sellers ensure they are maximising the value of their home and are not losing out due to poor mobile coverage.”
WiFi Calling is not like ‘over the top’ services that enable calls using WiFi. WiFi Calling from EE uses the phone’s normal dialler and contacts book to make calls, and the normal text button to send text messages. There is no need for an app, and friends don’t need to be using the same closed user group services to talk to or message each other.
Rivals Three and O2 already offer Wi-Fi Calling, but users are required to install an app on their phones unlike the approach to be taken by EE and also Vodafone, which is due to launch as similar service to EE this summer.
EE's WiFi Calling service will be available from launch on the Lumia 640 and from Friday 10 April on the new Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. More new and existing devices will be added to the WiFi Calling range in the coming weeks, and by summer 2015 more than five million EE pay monthly customers will have access to WiFi Calling.
EE CEO Olaf Swantee said: “Losing coverage at home is a major frustration, and WiFi Calling will make a real difference to millions of customers across the UK, from basement flats in London to the most rural homes in the country. Our customers want to be able to call and text no matter where they are, and they don’t want to have to think about which app they need to use or if their friends have a particular third party service.”
Research carried out by ICM on behalf of EE in March 2015 found almost one in ten people have one room or more in their home where they have no mobile connectivity, and this increases to 15% for those living in rural and semi-rural areas.
WiFi Calling will be available to EE pay monthly consumer and small business customers with compatible devices. WiFi Calling will be available to corporate 4GEE customers with compatible devices this summer.
Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, which integrates cellular connectivity with public, private and carrier Wi-Fi to create a curated virtual Wi-Fi network of more than 20 million amenity Wi-Fi locations worldwide, commented: "EE's Wi-Fi Calling launch offers further evidence that mobile operators are recognizing the need to combine Wi-Fi and cellular into an integrated connectivity service.
“Olaf Swantee's observation that the loss of mobile coverage in the home is a ‘major frustration’ is an important statement for a mobile CEO to make, but the problem extends beyond voice and text connectivity, and beyond the home or office.
“Smartphone users need high quality connectivity for data as well as voice wherever they go, indoors and out, public or private. For an integrated connectivity service to be truly valuable, and this is particularly important with regard to Wi-Fi Calling, users need their devices to connect to Wi-Fi automatically wherever cellular coverage is inadequate,” said Fraser.
See also: Vodafone UK to launch Wi-Fi calling and VoLTE services this summer