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.

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Written by Jonathan Morris

Writing about technology, with a focus on mobile, since the early 1990s! Former editor of What Mobile magazine, writer for The Telegraph, Stuff, Know Your Mobile, Pocket Gamer, Smart TV Radar and more. Regular Tweeter, occasional YouTuber, keen amateur photographer and forum moderator. If you like what I write, please consider deactivating your ad blocker or making a donation via PayPal to help fund this site.

10 comments

  1. I have received a text message from Three on 19th January about the Three InTouch app –
    “Awesome news! Three InTouch Wi-Fi is changing so you won’t need the app to stay connected. Watch out for the next settings update on your iPhone.”
    I’m guessing this means that they’re finally enabling Wi-Fi calling?

    Has anyone else received the text message, or even received the carrier settings update yet?

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  2. I would just like to point out that the home signal box does not support Volte. I am in a black spot for three and the home signal box has been great so far. I noted after the carrier upgrade that my IP6 was on 1 bar but my Wife’s ip5s was on full signal. The fix for this is to set mobile data to “data only” then flight mode on/off you will get full signal. You can the set data to back to Data & voice so it is active when you leave home. From discussions with tech support it seems that three are working on a integrated seamless system within phone S/W to combine Cellular calls with Wifi/Volte that replace “three in touch”. We shall see

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  3. I have an issue with this, we have two iPhones 6 in our house hold, since these carrier changes we are down too one bar and sometimes now no service especially in our living room, it’s gone from four bars we used to have. So whatever three have done isn’t working for us. Very frustrated three customer. We have even tried turning the 4g off and it still drops seeing what each phone does side by side doesn’t change much, I hope there is some other update soon to correct this issue 😏

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  4. I and it seems many others in Three’s blog are not seeing any improvement to their signal since this update. According to Three when I complained, the 800 mhz 4g signal will cut in when you lose your 3g signal after moving indoors etc. I tried my iPhone6 in locations around my home town of Alloa which ( according to their coverage checker) had been ‘super pumped’. I can go from one bar of signal with patchy internet, to ‘no service’ showing after going into a local pub fronted with glass windows. Nothing happens, the phone remains out of service. I tried toggling the settings on and off- nothing. We’ve been promised 4g in this area for the
    last two years and I am fed up with their false promises and self back slapping about how good and reliable their service is. People sitting next to me on EE can get a signal no problem, which is strange as Three and EE share the mast serving the town. I get the feeling they have announced all these improvements to stop people complaining about the lack of 4g in the area. Either 800 mhz is not activated as they say, or there are problems with compatability issues regarding iPhones and the carrier update. It’s all promises and hot air from Three. I am off to EE soon. At least I know I will get a signal where Three users don’t.

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    1. I don’t believe you get any indication on the phone, but there is a way to see the band you’re connected to in one of the field testing options (I suggest Googling for it, as I don’t know the specifics).

      The priority levels set by Three mean you’ll use 4G 1800 first, then 3G 2100 second, then 4G 800 last. So, wherever you have 3G, you’ll likely be stuck on that until that goes – so 800 won’t be used that often. The idea being that it will be available when you’re indoors, or in rural areas where Three doesn’t already provide 3G.

      Some Android devices show VoLTE in operation with two arrows (left/right stacked on top of each other) but I think that operators can opt to have that hidden, presumably as they want to make it almost invisible to the consumer.

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    2. Just go to settings > general > about

      Then wait about 15 seconds for a message to pop up to see if you have a carrier update or do just check the phone software update first and then repeat these steps.

      At the end when you go to about you should see your carrier version at 23.1

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      1. Dan, what I want to know is how to determine whether or not the current 4G connection node on an iPhone, is capable of VoLTE. Alternatively whether a current list of VoLTE enabled cells will be published by main MSNs.

        Thanks, Mike.

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