EE Boosts Voice Capabilities With Calls Over Wi-Fi And 4G

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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EE customers will be able to makes calls and send texts over Wi-Fi from later this year, with VoLTE set to follow in 2015

EE customers will be able to make calls and send texts over a Wi-Fi connection from later this year, with Voice over LTE (VoLTE) functionality made available to compatible handsets from 2015 as the operator looks to improve the quality of voice services on its network.

The new capabilities will improve the reach of EE’s service, particularly in rural areas where coverage is poor, and in offices or other indoor spaces which have a good Wi-Fi connection but poor cellular reception.

The company claims calls over 4G or Wi-Fi will require no additional software and will offer better quality and reliability than unregulated VoIP services.

EE VoLTE trial

Olaf Swantee EE 4G Huawei Forum (5) (800x600)“The customer experience is seamless because it’s the same as making a network call and uses the normal call interface of the handset,” says Fotis Karonis, EE CTO. “This is a major part of our strategy to invest in giving customers the ability to make a call wherever they are, and we’re confident that this service can make a big difference to people in homes and large offices across the country, especially in the most rural areas, that don’t have mobile coverage.”

Calls over Wi-Fi will be possible from the autumn, with VoLTE services trialled later this year in rural Oxfordshire. VoLTE will use the 800MHz frequencies, which offer good range but lower capacity, that it won in the Ofcom spectrum of auction last year. Currently, the EE 4G network uses 1800MHz bandwidth that had previously been used for Orange and T-Mobile’s 3G networks.

“When we have rigorously tested the performance of 4G calling and made sure that it matches our 2G and 3G quality, we’ll launch it nationwide on our 4G network,” adds Karonis.

Voice upgrades

EE has pledged to invest £275 million in improving voice capabilities on its network during 2014 and has plans to upgrade its MyEE app so engineers can be alerted to areas where users have been unable to make calls, while it also plans to halve its dropped call rate across the country.

More than 6,000 2G masts have been upgraded with new equipment in the past 18 months, while 2,000 3G masts have had capacity doubled. Additionally, EE is to trial it’s so-called ‘Platinum Project’ which will see network teams on the M25, in Canary Wharf and London’s Southbank walk and drive thousands of miles to identify areas of poor coverage and reconfigure masts accordingly.

VoLTE is being readied by networks in a number of European countries, but is so far unavailable in the UK. However with EE’s LTE network now reaching 72 percent of the UK population, it is now practical.

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