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EE launches UK’s first wifi calling service by an operator

UK mobile operator EE has claimed the first launch of wifi calling in the UK. The technology, which features close collaboration with Mavenir, effectively uses wifi to boost your mobile coverage, routing cellular calls through a wifi hotspot for phones that have that capability.

Scott Bicheno

April 7, 2015

2 Min Read
ee wifi calling

UK mobile operator EE has claimed the first launch of wifi calling in the UK. The technology, which features close collaboration with Mavenir, effectively uses wifi to boost your mobile coverage, routing cellular calls through a wifi hotspot for phones that have that capability.

There has been a race among UK operators to claim this ‘first’, with EE announcing its intentions last year and Vodafone more recently joining the party. The technology is distinct from OTT calling services such as Skype or voice over WhatsApp in that it gives the router access to the core mobile network, thus treating calls as regular cellular calls.

EE is keen to stress that the benefit of this new service to people who currently have patchy connectivity at home. “Losing coverage at home is a major frustration, and wifi calling will make a real difference to millions of customers across the UK,” said EE CEO Olaf Swantee. “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.”

Having said that there are a few strings attached. As calls over wifi are effectively IP calls there is no capability to hand over to 3G, so if you start a wifi call at home, then leave the house, the call will drop. This problem is overcome by VoLTE, but EE won’t be launching VoLTE until late summer 2015, when it expects LTE population coverage to hit 90%. Also the only handsets currently wifi calling enabled are the Samsung Galaxy S6s and the Lumia 640.

Regardless this is a competitive win for EE, although T-Mobile US was probably the world’s first with the technology. Somewhat speculatively EE even suggests this launch could boost some house prices, which should please readers of the Mail, but it may take a while for the market to appreciate the distinction between this and OTT calling.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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