EE beats Vodafone UK to the punch with Wi-Fi calling

EE has launched Wi-Fi calling services designed to enable users to make calls and send texts via their home or office Wi-Fi networks where mobile coverage is poor.

The company, which is currently being sold to BT by parent companies Orange and Deutsche Telekom, has therefore achieved its previously announced goal to offer the service ahead of Vodafone UK, which revealed in March that it plans to offer commercial voice services over Wi-Fi and LTE networks from this summer.

Although EE is claiming a UK first with the Wi-Fi network-based calling service, both Three UK and O2 UK already offer the ability to make calls and send texts over Wi-Fi: Three UK last year launched an app called Three inTouch, which allows customers to talk and text using a Wi-Fi connection on their usual Three UK phone number, while O2 UK's TU Go app offers similar services.

The main difference with EE's Wi-Fi calling service is that it is not an app and instead comes integrated into the primary phone dialler.

"WiFi Calling from EE is not like 'over the top' services that enable calls using WiFi. WiFi Calling from EE uses the phone's normal dialler and contacts book to make calls, and the normal text button to send text messages. There is no need for an app, and friends don't need to be using the same closed user group services to talk to or message each other," EE explained.

The Wi-Fi calling service from EE is now available on the Lumia 640, and from Apr. 10 will also be offered on the new Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. More devices will be added in the coming months, and EE claims that more than 5 million of its pay monthly customers will have access to Wi-Fi calling by the summer.

The service is primarily targeted at the 4 million people who say they lose mobile connection in at least one room in their house. EE said a recent survey of connectivity in the home also found that a quarter of people in the UK work from home at least one day per week and 20 per cent of those lose connectivity during the day.

Citing a poll of 2,000 adults carried out by ICM on behalf of EE in March, the operator also noted that almost one in 10 people said they have one room or more in their home where they have no mobile connectivity, and this increases to 15 per cent for those living in rural and semi-rural areas. 

"Losing coverage at home is a major frustration, and WiFi Calling will make a real difference to millions of customers across the UK, from basement flats in London to the most rural homes in the country," said EE CEO Olaf Swantee.

EE further highlighted the potential benefits to property owners, who may lose value on their homes if mobile coverage is shown to be poor.

Like Vodafone UK, EE also intends to offer voice over LTE (VoLTE) services from this summer, but has not provided any further updates on the timing of the launch. VoLTE allows voice calls to be carried over a 4G network rather than relying on 2G and 3G services.

For more:
- see this EE release

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