Apple's Wi-Fi Calling innovation neglected by Australian telcos

Why doesn't the iPhone 6 support Wi-Fi calling in Australia?

Tim Cook stood on stage during Apple’s iPhone 6 launch heralding the smartphone’s ability to make high-definition voice calls over home Wi-Fi networks.

Owners of an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus could jump between 4G and Wi-Fi networks seamlessly without having calls disconnect. The feature, dubbed ‘Wi-Fi calling’, would popularise high-definition phone calls and also use Wi-Fi to patch areas plagued by poor reception.

Wi-Fi calling is already available in the US with carrier T-Mobile, while AT&T has announced plans to support the feature in 2015.

Australian carriers, however, do not support Wi-Fi calling. Representatives from Telstra, Optus, Virgin and Vodafone could not reveal if they plan to support Wi-Fi calling when they were contacted by Good Gear Guide.

Vodafone stands to benefit most from supporting Wi-Fi calling. Whereas Telstra and Optus cover 99.3% and 98.5% of the Australian population, Vodafone lingers with 96%. Wi-Fi calling will help the carrier plug network holes and improve its competitiveness against the larger telcos.

Supporting Wi-Fi Calling could cannibalise revenues Optus and Telstra generate from fixed line services, such as a home phone connection. “Carriers might be afraid to lose some of their fixed line revenues or their existing fixed line [customer] base,” said Narelle Clark, the deputy chief executive of ACCAN, which is the peak body representing communication customers.

“They don’t think their business case stacks up. As soon as they think they’ll make money out of it, and it doesn't cost too much to do it, they’ll do it,” Clark told GGG.

Rather, Australian carriers are investing in HD voice calls conducted over a 4G network with the adoption of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology. Vodafone announced in August it will be the first to market with VoLTE when it launches in 2015.

Neither Optus or Telstra have announced plans to invest in the technology; however, respective spokespeople told GGG the adoption of VoLTE is under review.

Wi-Fi Calling is not the only iPhone 6 feature to skip Australia. Apple’s innovative Pay system, which makes it possible to make payments with a tap of an iPhone 6, was launched only in the United States.