We all know the main benefit of 4G; super-fast data transfer that allows us to use our mobile devices for gaming, video and music streaming, e-mailing, social media, and online shopping. However, when it comes to the simplest function of a mobile phone, which is making voice calls, 4G has had some criticism.
Voice call capabilities aren’t something that most customers would consider when deciding whether to upgrade to 4G. They might think about how much more data they would get, or the increased upload or download speeds they could achieve, but most would assume that voice calls would work just the same.
Back in September 2013 BBC’s Watchdog ran a feature about 4G from EE. They reported that they had received a number of complaints from 4GEE customers saying that while their mobile internet speeds were much faster, they were having problems making and receiving voice calls. Complaints included having calls regularly dropping out, having calls going direct to voicemail, and an inability to make and receive calls even with full coverage.
The reasons for these problems are not totally clear, but it seems to be linked to the fact that the 4G network itself does not actually support voice calls yet. When you make a call from a 4G handset, it actually drops back to the 3G network to make the call. This is only a temporary solution, until 4G networks are able to support voice calls, but the switching process may be causing an issue with voice calls. It might also be that there is too much pressure on 3G networks, which may have been reduced in bandwidth to accommodate 4G.
Can Three Improve 4G Voice Call Performance?
In an earlier post we saw that Three has finally begun to roll out its 4G network. Three believes that the extra time it has had to work on its 4G service has allowed it to learn from the problems experienced by other networks such as EE, and that the voice call performance of 4G from Three will be far better.
According to Phil Sheppard, who is responsible for Three’s 4G technical program, “We’ve seen a lot of the complaints of the other 4G operators have been around voice performance. It’s been very slow to move across from 4G to 3G, or it’s failed to move across at all. We spent the last two months really optimising that and just testing, tweaking and re-modifying things. Technically the handset has to do a bit more work, so it’s really important to make it fast and we’ve now got it down to a point where people really can’t tell the difference.”
As Three continues to rollout and test its 4G network over the coming months, it will be interesting to see whether they have indeed managed to iron out the glitches in making voice calls on a 4G handset. After all, 4G provides an incredibly fast mobile internet experience, but that might be immaterial if you can’t actually use your handset for its original purpose and make phone calls.