Wi-Fi Calling to Take Off

Subscribe To Download This Insight

2Q 2015 | IN-3581

U.K. mobile operator Everything Everywhere has launched a Wi-Fi calling service. This ABI Insight discusses how the calls will work and the benefits of it.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.

EE Launched Wi-Fi Calling Ahead of Rivals


In early April 2015, the U.K. mobile operator Everything Everywhere (EE) launched Wi-Fi calling services, allowing its mobile subscribers to make calls or send messages through their home or office Wi-Fi networks at no extra charges. The service is primarily targeted at the people who have no mobile connectivity in at least one room in their home. EE only allows users to use the Wi-Fi calling within its domestic area, while some operator such as T-Mobile let users get access to Wi-Fi calling from anywhere in the world. Likewise, this summer, EE also plans to inaugurate its Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services (which make voice calls over the 4G network) but has not confirmed a launch date. At the moment, Vodafone UK has also confirmed that it will be launching Wi-Fi calling and VoLTE services this summer.

What Is Wi-Fi Calling?


Wi-Fi calling is not an application, but instead is integrated into the phone’s normal dialer to make calls or send text messages through normal text buttons. Those receiving the calls do not have to install the same apps like VoIP to call or message each other. Wi-Fi calling transfers the cellular packets from the phone over the Internet, and injects back into the cellular network, while VoIP transfers the voice over the Internet to the switched telephone network. The sender of a call needs a smartphone that supports Wi-Fi calling, whereas the receiver can be on mobile or fixed line connection.

Advantages and Issues for Wi-Fi Calling


There are a number of advantages of using Wi-Fi calling:

  • Wi-Fi Calling versus VoIP-Based Calling Technologies: Wi-Fi calling works almost the same as the mobile network, unlike VoIP where you have to switch on the application to connect to others.
  • Seamless Handover During a Wi-Fi Call between Wi-Fi and GSM / UMTS Mobile Networks: One of the limitations of Wi-Fi calling so far is that the call will not automatically transfer to the mobile network when the Wi-Fi call starts to go outside of the network range. However, seamless handover between Wi-Fi and other technologies can be achieved when the operator launches the VoLTE services. The VoLTE services will enable voice and message services to work over 4G networks. Then Wi-Fi calling will be able to leverage the VoLTE infrastructure and eliminate the need for special support from cellular modem. The various architectures for different operators should also be considered. 
  • Leverage of Wi-Fi Calling for Mobile Operators: Wi-Fi helps to increase indoor coverage for phone calls and message texts. It also helps to save money for mobile subscribers, as the calls and texts do not count against the plan. In the case of network downtime or poor signal areas, like in rural villages and underground stations, the customers still can make calls. Though EE will launch VoLTE services soon, they still inaugurate Wi-Fi calling services first since it takes time to achieve full country level coverage. In this way, the Wi-Fi calling can compensate for poor indoor or rural coverage while keeping the same quality services for its customers. Therefore, Wi-Fi calling provides a good opportunity for mobile operators to reduce costs, increase coverage, enhance user experience, and reduce congestion.
  • Attractiveness to Communication Equipment Providers: Wi-Fi calling is not available for any smartphone, as it is not embedded in an application, but rather coded into the operating systems. In order to promote Wi-Fi calling, EE has expanded the profile of smartphones capable of connecting to the enabled Wi-Fi network by introducing two of its own new devices at premium prices.