This week 4G network Three has rolled outs its new enhancement, Super Voice. The development is part of Three’s #makeitright campaign and launched with the strapline “Indoor blackspots suck. We’re kicking their ass with new 4G Super Voice.”
Super Voice, which was originally announced in April, uses Voice Over Long-Term Evolution (VoLTE) technology, making Three the first UK 4G operator to launch such a service. VoLTE allows voice calls to be carried over the LTE system along with data.
Super Voice also includes the roll-out of low frequency 800 MHz spectrum which can travel much further than higher frequency spectrum. This means it can travel into buildings and rural areas allowing Three customers to make voice calls, send text messages, and access the mobile web in places where they have previously struggled to get a signal. Three claims the combination of the lower frequency 800 MHz spectrum with the higher frequency 1800 MHz will reduce the occurrence of mobile black spots throughout the country and give customers better call connections.
According to Bryn Jones, Chief Technology Officer at Three, “By the end of the year, one million of our customers will have access to better indoor coverage and be able to use their phones in more places than ever before.”
Super Voice is initially rolling out in London, Edinburgh, Exeter, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool, and Bristol. It already covers 50% of the UK population for indoor coverage and over 75% of London, Edinburgh, Exeter, and Birmingham. This will gradually be expanded to other parts of the country, reaching 65% by the end of the year, and it is expected that 5.5 million Three customers will be able to benefit from the new service by 2017 subject to device compatibility.
So what devices are compatible with Super Voice? Initially only customers with the Samsung Galaxy S5 handset will have access to the service, but new devices will be added regularly. This will include the latest iPhone 6S which was announced at an Apple event last week.
Super Voice is free of charge to Three customers. To gain access to the service, users with a compatible handset need to update their operating system to the latest version. They will receive an alert as soon as the upgrade is available and simply need to follow the on-screen instructions to install the new software.
Three is continually pushing for improvements in indoor coverage, as illustrated by the operator’s InTouch service which launched last year, and the addition of numerous sites to the network. With Super Voice customers are expected to get a better signal on public transport as well as inside buildings.
Three may be the first operator to launch VoLTE but EE is unlikely to be far behind. EE’s launch was scheduled for late summer and has been pushed back to ensure reliability, but the fact that its trial of VoLTE has now been expanded to the entire network looks promising.
According to Tom Bennett, Director of Network Services at EE, “We will make VoLTE available to our customers when the reliability of the service is as good as our current voice service. We’re currently maintaining a dropped call rate of 0.4% and CS fall back is performing very well – we’ll only launch a new voice service when it’s on a par with, or better than, what customers are currently using.”