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Vodafone has launched its first voice over Wi-FI – or VoWLAN – services in the UK, allowing users to place and receive calls over a wireless connection from locations where they cannot access its 2G and 3G networks.
Customers using Vodafone Wi-Fi Calling will be able to call any other UK network without the need to download and navigate an app – unlike many other internet-based voice services.
It will be available at no extra charge in the next few weeks on a number of smartphones to any pay-monthly customers on a Vodafone Red Bundle.
However, for the time being it will not be possible for users to place VoWLAN calls while roaming abroad, call non-geographical 0800 numbers or international numbers or place calls while roaming.
VoWLAN works by routing calls from a phone over a wireless access point to a VoIP gateway or IP PBX. From here, the call can be routed to its destination either across a private network or over the internet or public switched telephone network (PSTN).
EE became the first UK mobile network operator to launch VoWLAN services earlier in 2015. O2 is understood to be planning to launch a similar service in the near future, and Three customers have been able to place calls over Wi-Fi for some time, although their service only works through a dedicated smartphone app.
Vodafone UK consumer director Cindy Rose said: “It works wherever a customer is connected to Wi-Fi – in a café, at home or the office. It automatically connects just like a normal call when a mobile signal is weak or non-existent.”
Rose said Vodafone WiFi Calling would be a “great match” for the operator’s recently launched broadband package, which uses beam-forming technology to allow targeted Wi-Fi network signals to specific devices.
The introduction of the service follows Vodafone’s recent roll-out of high-definition voice technology, 4G+ carrier aggregation technology and its Rural Open Sure Signal programme.
“Vodafone’s launch of Wi-Fi Calling is another important acknowledgement that the connectivity needs of today’s smartphone user can only be met with a combination of cellular and Wi-Fi. In particular it highlights the challenge operators face in providing reliable indoor coverage,” commented Dave Fraser, CEO at Wi-Fi services supplier Devicescape.
According to Fraser, however, if mobile operators did not address the quality, simplicity and security of customer Wi-Fi connections, the potential of the service would be limited.
“A service that manages each user’s total smartphone connectivity is the answer. By managing connectivity in real time so users get automated access to the best available connection – Wi-Fi or cellular – mobile operators can deliver the consistency of experience their customers demand.
“By blending the huge resource of public amenity Wi-Fi into the mix, operators can match that consistency with truly ubiquitous connectivity,” said Fraser.