Advertisement
Advertisement

Everything you need to know about EE Wi-Fi calling - roaming, iPhone 6 and emergency calls

Michael Passingham David Ludlow
10 Apr 2015
EE logo
Advertisement

Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and Microsoft Lumia 640 get service first, iPhones coming soon

EE has launched its Wi-Fi Calling service, allowing its customers to make and receive phone calls and text messages without a mobile connection. The service, first announced last summer by Apple at the iPhone 6 launch, had been due to launch towards the end of 2014, but will now be available to EE customers from Friday April 10th, on a selected range of handsets. We spoke to EE to find out everything you need to know about the new service.

How does Wi-Fi calling work?

Wi-Fi calling is designed to be seamless, letting you make and receive phone calls and standard SMS messages over a wireless network in the usual way. That means that you don't need to fire up a different app, change any settings or do anything differently to how you do now. Any wireless network will do, so you could be at home or on the tube using the underground's Wi-Fi.

The news will be welcome to mobile users who live in thick-walled houses, basements or deep in the countryside where mobile reception is patchy. EE-funded research conducted in March found that one in ten people have at least one room in their house where there's no mobile signal, a figure that rises to 15% for those living in rural areas. People living in these so-called mobile "not-spots" have previously relied on third-party chat and calling services - such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Skype - to make reliable calls using fixed line internet connections. They can now use the built-in diallers and SMS message apps on their phones without requiring a third-party service. 

How is Wi-Fi calling charged?

Calls and text messages are charged in the same way as if you were connected to the standard phone network. If you've got inclusive minutes and texts, these are reduced by usage; anything out of bundle is charged at standard rates. As such, Wi-Fi calling is a method of improving phone service, not a way of making cheap calls. If you want to make cheaper phone calls abroad, you'll still need to install a third-party app, such as Skype, to do so. You'll also need a price plan that supports Wi-Fi calling, with pay-monthly and business customers only geting the service.

Can you make emergency calls?

EE has had its Wi-Fi calling certified by the emergency services, so you can make calls to 999 no matter whether you're using a wireless network or the cellular one. Alternative Wi-Fi calling apps, such as Skype, are not certified for 999 calls and are barred from making them.

How is roaming handled?

Wi-Fi calling is disabled when you go abroad. EE can detect your IP address and, when you're on a foreign Wi-Fi network, it can disable the service. The main reason for this is that going abroad adds another layer of confusion into the mix. It's possible if your phone were to switch from Wi-Fi to cellular, that you could even get charged twice for a call. When you go on holiday, you're switched back to using standard roaming.

Which phones are supported?

Wi-Fi calling needs to be supported in both hardware and software, which means that only a limited number of phones support it at the moment. At launch, only the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and Microsoft Lumia 640 will be available with Wi-Fi Calling. Other handsets may get upgrades while newer models should be launched that support the technology out-of-the-box. EE claims that 5m customers will be able to use Wi-Fi calling by summer 2015.

What about the iPhone?

Thanks to the recent release of iOS 8.3, you can now enable Wi-Fi Calling on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. It works really well, in our tests, although there's one issue: turning on Wi-Fi calling disables Continuity. This is the feature that lets you make and receive calls from your other Apple devices while they're on the same wireless network as your phone. We find it an extremely useful feature, so it's annoying having to choose whether to have Continuity or Wi-Fi calling.

As such, we're currently switching between the two, only using Wi-Fi Calling when we're in an area that has poor service. To find out how to switch between the two options, check out our guide on how to enable and disable Wi-Fi calling.

Is Wi-Fi calling only for EE?

Wi-Fi calling is not an EE technology, but it's up to a network to implement the technology. Vodafone currently has a similar service in the works: its website currently states it'll be launching this summer.

Is Wi-Fi calling any good?

Wi-Fi calling is a great thing to have and will eliminate those annoying black-spots we all encounter (provided there's a wireless network within range). This makes it much more convenient than previous attempts at improving mobile reception, such as Vodafone Suresignal, which required you to install a tiny 3G cell in your own home and connect it to your broadband network.

As Wi-Fi calling works seamlessly, it's also much more convenient than using a third-party VoIP app, such as Skype. The one minor annoyance is that Wi-Fi calling doesn't work when you're abroad, although we understand the reasons why.

Read more

News