Apple is currently rolling out the latest iOS 9.2 update, and it should bring plenty of festive cheer (and improved coverage) for Three users with an iPhone 6, 6 plus, 6s or 6s plus.
Along with the new OS update comes a carrier settings update (23.1) which allows Three subscribers to use VoLTE by accessing a new option in the settings for mobile data.
Within this, you will find that for 4G settings you can now select Off (to force 3G only), Voice & Data (to enable VoLTE) or Data Only (akin to having it as it is currently, with voice carried on 3G).
The big advantage is that once VoLTE is enabled, you are able to access Three’s ‘Super Voice’ network, or put more simply, Three’s 800MHz 4G network – that has a rather incredible level of coverage, albeit at a reduced speed in some cases.
Indoor coverage should see a massive improvement, as 800MHz will generally penetrate buildings more successfully than Three’s 3G network at 2100MHz, and also Three’s existing 4G network operating at 1800MHz.
Even better news is that anyone who bought a SIM-free iPhone won’t need to download a Three-branded version of the Apple update, as every iPhone will get the update at the same time.
This is so much better than owners of a SIM-free Galaxy S6, S6, LG G4 etc, who took their phone to Three with a SIM-only contract, having to flash Three’s own software before being able to enable VoLTE.
Ironically, Google has the means to allow settings to be sent over the air on many devices running Lollipop and Marshmallow, but to date nobody seems to be utilising the feature (even though mobile data APN settings are sent over the air regularly, including Three!).
Rumours suggest Three is seeking to release an update of its inTouch app to allow voice to be carried over 4G as well as Wi-Fi, which could then make many more Android devices ‘compatible’ with Three’s 800MHz network – but I am still not sure how definite this is, nor how reliable such a workaround might be compared to doing things the ‘proper’ way.
There’s more good news too…
There’s also an unconfirmed rumour that Three is now, at last, allowing users of SIM cards in data-only devices to access 800MHz 4G too. This could mean a massive improvement in coverage for mobile broadband users. In the coming days, I’ll be trying to test this out using a 4G enabled Nexus 7 tablet and a number of mobile broadband dongles and Mi-Fi devices.
Please do let me know in the comments if you’re successful!
Finally, word is that EE users also get access to the new settings (and possibly other UK networks too?) but don’t get too excited as enabling VoLTE on EE won’t mean you can suddenly use it – unless you have a suitably enabled test SIM.
However, at least it means that once EE is ready to flick the switch, it won’t be delayed by the need for another Apple carrier update.