Wi-Fi Calling: how alternative broadband can light up mobile blackspots

18th July 2018

Is that better? And now? Hello? Yeah, I can hear you. Can you hear…hello? Is that better? Oh, forget it…damn phone.

Sound familiar? Then Wi-Fi calling will shine a light on your darkest mobile blackspots. If you haven’t already heard of Wi-Fi Calling then it may well be time to get enabled.

For many bigblu customers who have had to go down the alternative broadband route, often because of their rural out-of-reach location, they are faced with scant mobile network coverage. “No Signal”, “Network Error” and “Call Failed” are far more familiar screen flashes than the ever-hopeful “Message Sent”.

For all the advancement in mobile coverage and the boasts by certain networks of 99% 4G coverage of the UK population (even if those figures are accurate that still leaves well over half a million people in bleak zones), we all know to our screen-slapping handset-waving frustration those blackspots in our lives.

EE launched Wi-Fi Calling in the UK just over three years ago, it has taken the other major networks a while to catch up but as of earlier this year, they now all offer this service (device and plan permitting). The service is aimed at improving coverage in areas where traditional networks do not reach.

Okay, tell me more…
The idea with Wi-Fi Calling is that instead of using your regular mobile network connection to make calls or send texts, you can do both using your home Wi-Fi (whether that’s through fibre, cable or bigblu’s alternative broadband options, which include 4G, fixed wireless or satellite broadband) or any other Wi-Fi hotspot you join while out and about. It’s the ideal solution for those of us that live or work in mobile dark zones, where one or no bars is the bane of your life.

So, it’s basically Skype?
That’s not a bad place to get started. Think of it as Skype’s cooler smarter better-looking older cousin. Services like Skype, WhatsApp and Google Hangout, for example, are what we call VoIP (Voice over IP) applications that let you use a Wi-Fi connection to make voice calls. However, the benefits of a dedicated Wi-Fi Calling service through your own network provider create a much simpler hassle-free experience.

Okay, you’ve whetted my appetite. Now feed me more
For starters, with the likes of Skype and WhatsApp – what we call ‘third-party apps’ – each person that you wish to contact must also have that same app before you can connect over Wi-Fi. With a dedicated network service everything is already hooked up into your phone’s system. You don’t need to buy an app, download an app, log on to a service – and neither does the person you want to be on the other end of the phone.

What’s next?
For main course, such is the Wi-Fi Calling tech these days that if you begin your call in a part of the house with four bars, get lost in catching up and find yourself absentmindedly wandering into that dreaded blackspot, then Wi-Fi Calling will seamlessly kick-in. The chances are you won’t even notice the switch apart from your device will display a Wi-Fi call icon next to the Wi-Fi signal bar.

I’m still hungry…
Well, for dessert, Wi-Fi Calling makes the whole internet voice calling thing so straightforward. There’s no adding of contacts to a third-party service, you dial the number or send that text just as you normally would and the call or text will appear on your contacts phone as normal too. The cherry on the top being that the person doesn’t even need to have Wi-Fi Calling.

It is worth bearing in mind that under pretty much all of the current Wi-Fi Calling plans, any call time or texts used over your Wi-Fi Calling facility will count towards that month’s allowance.

I need something to wash it all down with…
For your nightcap, telling you how you can make Wi-Fi Calling happen for you. First, you’ll need a smartphone with Wi-Fi Calling capability. The current range of compatible phones does start at the top end of the market.

For Apple’s iPhone that’s the iPhone X, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus or SE. For Samsung it ranges from the Galaxy S9 Plus down to the 2016 Galaxy A3. It’s best to check with your network provider (check out their website or give them a call, if you can, to find out more) as different providers are enabling a wider range of handsets as demand grows.

The availability of Wi-Fi Calling will depend on your current monthly plan so it’s worth checking that too. If it’s not available to you, it might be worth working out whether it’s worth an upgrade to be rid of those bleak blackspots. Wi-Fi Calling is currently not available to Pay As You Go customers but stay tuned for any updates on that front.

I’m compatible, now what?
If your phone is compatible and your plan allows it then all you need to do to enable your phone is:

(1) make sure you’ve got the latest version of your phone’s software;

(2) make sure you’ve got VoLTE (i.e. 4G Voice Calls) enabled in the ‘Settings’ on your phone;

(3) head to the ‘Phone’ section in ‘Settings’; and

(4) select ‘Wi-Fi Calling on This Phone and flick the switch to ‘On’.

Thanks for the feed, I’ll be off now
Let’s not be forgetting the bill, there’s no such thing as a free dinner! Here’s the damage:

  • If you make a call using Wi-Fi Calling and then travel outside the Wi-Fi range, the call won’t automatically transfer to your mobile network;
  • You will need at least a 1Mbps Wi-Fi connection, which shouldn’t be too difficult to be frank;
  • As well as using up your minutes and text allowance, the calls you make over Wi-Fi Calling will also use up your data (not much but always worth knowing about);
  • Wi-Fi calling doesn’t currently support international roaming, but that may change.

Any mints what that?
There is one last thing: All our bigblu routers support Wi-Fi Calling. Oh, and service wasn’t included.