Last week, iPhone users on Three got a significant update that gave access to VoLTE (aka Three’s ‘Super Voice’ network).
In that same update came VoLTE support for EE too.
So far, EE hasn’t launched its 4G voice service, or even given a launch date. [UPDATED 14th FEBRUARY 2016: All iPhone 6/6s users can now use VoLTE in the locations mentioned below, plus Sale, Manchester and Edinburgh city centres. This starts a gradual move to rolling out VoLTE to more areas in the future, as well as more handsets]
It’s safe to say that with Christmas around the corner and many engineers and customer support teams off for a well-earned break, it’s not going to launch officially just yet.
Make no mistake, EE VoLTE is real
However, the update that a lot of people disregarded as a mistake on the part of EE or Apple did have a purpose.
You see, for some people at least, VoLTE is usable right now. Ironically, eligible customers might not even have a clue that they have access!
Following lengthy internal trials, EE has decided to allow some real customers to try out VoLTE, but only by meeting a specific criteria;
- Owning an iPhone 6, 6 plus, 6S or 6S plus
- Being on an EE plan (obvious really)
- In the Bristol or Hatfield area (the location of key offices, in case you’re wondering)
- Using the latest software (iOS 9.2 and carrier settings 23.1)
- Provisioned for the service* (see note below)
EE won’t even be telling those who are allowed to use VoLTE that they can, assuming instead that ‘early adopters and tech savvy customers will quickly notice this new option in their settings and start to spread the word‘.
Over time, the trial will be extended until such time that it is deemed ready to launch to all.
Anyone who can’t use VoLTE shouldn’t waste time calling customer services just yet, as you can’t request to opt in. It really is a case of just waiting and trying, remembering that the service is only live in two parts of the UK at the moment.
But it might still be a good idea to activate the option anyway, as you never know when the trial might get extended.
It seems that when EE launches voice over 4G early next year (subject to the testing going well), it will do so on all of the bands – namely 800, 1800 and 2600MHz.
It isn’t clear how the priorities will be set (Three currently sets its own 800MHz 4G network at a lower priority than 3G) but rumours suggest all three bands will be set higher than both 3G and 2G.
This makes sense as voice on 4G is considerably more network efficient than using 3G or 2G, and with a generous amount of spectrum, EE can easily afford to have most of its customer base using 4G, while working towards re-using more of the existing 2G spectrum for 4G in the months and years ahead.
In addition, EE’s service should allow handoff in both directions, making its VoLTE service considerably more dynamic and usable than Three’s (current) implementation.
EE recently stated a desire to have virtually no dropped calls on its network, so VoLTE has to be working perfectly before it can be turned on.
I’ll give further updates if they become available, but for now, if you tick the boxes in the list above then go out and have a go.
Just remember to update your phone, get the latest carrier settings and activate Voice & Data in the 4G settings!
Oh, and please let me know if you have any success in the comments below.
* According to an internal memo, customer services will be able to see if a user is provisioned for VoLTE access and can advise callers of that fact, but not actually make changes.