Smartphones have transformed our lives. Let’s be honest, most of us are addicted to them. Go on any bus or train, or look around you in the street and everyone is glued to their phone. That’s because they are amazing little machines. You can post a picture of your lunch to all your friends, find out the latest football scores or even watch a movie virtually any place, any time. It’s frustrating then that they are not always that useful doing the thing they were invented for – making and receiving phone calls.
How often have you been on a call outside your house only to lose service as soon as you step through the front door? Or been on a train and repeatedly cut off in mid flow while speaking to a client or customer? Infuriating, isn’t it? It seems increasingly annoying as we rely more and more on our mobiles.
Indoor mobile coverage is a big challenge for mobile network operators (MNOs), and even outside or in public places you get black spots that knock out service. That’s changing. One of the ways MNOs are improving coverage is by offering WiFi calling (sometimes called Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi)). Their motivation for this is simple. Poor indoor coverage at home or work is one of the main reasons customers change networks. If MNOs can improve coverage, they can retain more customers and boost their market share.
You are probably familiar with Voice over IP (VoIP). VoIP – think Skype or FaceTime – has been around for a while. It allows users to make calls over the internet and in the process save a fortune in telephone bills. It is true that there were early problems with audio quality that frustrated some users but these have been overcome. Call quality is now on a par with traditional phone systems.
WiFi calling is based on the same principle. It uses your phone’s WiFi connection to make or receive calls, and send or receive messages. All the main UK providers (EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three) offer WiFi calling and it works alongside their networks.
A feature of WiFi calling is that it is seamless. You can be using your mobile network and then transition onto a WiFi network without having to do anything or even realising. It will always offer you the best connection. What’s more, if you are abroad, you can make and receive calls and messages on your phone, even though you are miles out of range of your home network.
One downside is that it isn’t yet available on all devices. But it works on many of the leading handsets including the iPhone 6S and 7, and Samsung Galaxy 7 and S7 Edge.
For businesses, WiFi calling has enormous potential to save money on call charges. Instead of using up minutes and messages under mobile phone contracts, employees will connect through WiFi – for which the business has already paid a fixed fee.