Vodafone has announced that it will be launching Voice over 4G along with Wi-Fi calling this summer with a view to improving network coverage and voice call quality.
Earlier this week Vodafone unveiled its plans to bring 4G voice calls, known as Voice over LTE or VoLTE, to its customers. This will enable voice calls to be carried over the Vodafone 4G network rather than using the 2G and 3G networks that are currently used. Customers that currently use 4G for mobile internet automatically drop down to 3G or 2G for voice calls. Vodafone has been testing Voice over 4G in its laboratories, and intends to perform user testing ahead of the launch this summer.
Vodafone’s Ed Cowmeadow explains: “There are a number of historical services that we need to re-tune to work on the data network. So we’re trialling it in the first instance to make sure that we do it right. We’ll trial it first with our own employees, just like we did with 4G. Before we turned 4G on for the public in August 2013, we had a number of friendly users at our HQ campus at Newbury and in certain areas in London testing the service. That’s exactly what we’re looking to do with Voice over 4G.”
Voice over 4G has already been used in the US for around a year and the big advantage of the service is the improvement in voice call quality. Deploying the technology is complex and costly, and other networks such as EE are also experimenting with the concept, but it seems that Vodafone will be the first to be able to offer this service. More details about the service and the handsets that will be compatible with it will be provided at the time of the launch.
Alongside Voice over 4G Vodafone will also be launching Wi-Fi calling. This service will use Wi-Fi to automatically provide Vodafone customers with a voice signal without them needing to use a mobile app. The new Wi-Fi calling service will be particularly beneficial to customers living in areas where it is difficult to get an indoor signal, or where network coverage is limited.
According to Jeroen Hoencamp, Chief Executive of Vodafone UK, “Our Wi-Fi Calling service will ensure that our customers never miss a call. It is another important step towards our commitment to build the UK’s strongest converged network.”
The launch of 4G and Wi-Fi voice calls is just one part of the investment Vodafone is currently making in its network. Other elements include:
- The Vodafone Rural Open Sure Signal programme that aims to provide 3G coverage for remote rural communities.
- The rollout of 4G+ using carrier aggregation technology.
- The nationwide provision of High Definition Voice technology.
Investment in voice call quality is well timed as Vodafone came last out of the four 4G networks in the category of call performance in the RootMetrics 2nd Half 2014 UK Mobile Network Performance Review. This meant that Vodafone also came last for overall performance, being narrowly beaten by O2. EE came first in every category, followed by Three, and Vodafone and O2 jockeyed back and forth behind them, with Vodafone coming out ahead in mobile internet and speed categories. We’ll be taking a closer look at the results of the RootMetrics performance review in our next blog post.