Optus, Vodafone bringing Wi-Fi Calling to Australia

Home Wi-Fi will be used during phone calls to plug Carrier network holes

Australians with Optus and Vodafone will be able to hold voice calls using a home Wi-Fi network.

Optus and Vodafone spokespeople confirmed to Good Gear Guide that support for Wi-Fi calling in Australia is coming, with Optus expected to make the announcement soon in “mid-2015”.

The innovation makes it possible to switch onto a home Wi-Fi network when cellular reception is weak. Alternating between the two networks can be done during an active phone call seamlessly.

Apple popularised the feature when it unveiled its iPhone 6 in 2014; however, Australian telcos have been slow to lend support.

Wi-Fi Calling on the Optus network will not be exclusive to Apple devices. The ‘service’ is expected to be compatible with phone calls and text messaging on smartphones running iOS or Android.

Vodafone will “definitely” bring the feature to market, the spokesperson told Good Gear Guide. “We don’t have a timeframe [for Wi-Fi Calling] at this stage,” she said.

Australia’s largest telco, Telstra, has been investigating the merits of delivering voice services over Wi-Fi, but company representatives could not provide a definitive answer on its implementation in the future.

Vodafone and Optus customers stand to benefit most from Wi-Fi Calling. Telstra has the greatest coverage with 99.3 per cent of the Australian population, while Optus and Vodafone service 98.5 and 96 per cent respectively.

All three carriers are strengthening their network technologies with the deployment of Voice over LTE (VoLTE), which makes it possible to hold voice calls over a 4G network. The benefits include ‘high definition’ quality audio calls and faster call set up time.

Read more: Comparing Telstra's Go Mobile with Optus' Family Sharing smartphone plans

Vodafone introduced VoLTE in Australia first late last year, while Optus and Telstra have deployed VoLTE infrastructure and are currently in testing.

“We plan to have our network ready to support VoLTE by the end of this year,” said the Optus spokesperson.

"VoLTE will be commercially available in the second half of the year," said Telstra's.

Telsyte principal analyst Foad Fadaghi said the introduction of Wi-Fi Calling and VoLTE will help carriers compete against Voice over IP applications.

Read more: Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Honouring Nokia's legacy

“Wi-Fi Calling is a better way of doing it than femtocells,” begun Fadaghi. “Getting customers to invest in new equipment has been fraught with challenges. Most people have smartphones and a home Wi-Fi network, so it will be popular.

“Telcos are really playing catch up with what consumers have been doing for a long time.”

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Tags AustraliaAppleVodafoneTelstraoptusVoLTEvoice over LTEWi-Fi Calling

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

Good Gear Guide

@slicktonyi

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