EE has become the first operator in the UK to launch native Wi-Fi calling, with the company predicting more than five million customers will have access to the service by the summer.
The service is initially limited to a handful of devices given the lack of compatibility with the relevant technology. Wi-Fi Calling will be available on the Lumia 640 and will also be open to owners of the forthcoming Samsung Glaxy S6 and S6 Edge when the smartphones go on sale from 10 April.
The operator said the new service will aid more than four million people who lose their mobile signal in at least one room in their house. In research commissioned by the operator, it found 25 percent of UK residents work from home at least one day a week. A fifth of those workers lose mobile connectivity during the day.
The service differs to OTT calling products by using the phone's native dialer and messaging features to make calls and texts. It does not require the recipient of the call to be using the same service.
The service was first announced last year, with the aim of launching it by the end of 2014. However, the launch was delayed after the operator faced issues with the complexity of extra systems that needed to be added. In total, 17 extra systems needed to be added in order to make traditional circuit switched networks operate alongside IMS networks.
EE CEO Olaf Swantee said: “Losing coverage at home is a major frustration, and Wi-Fi Calling will make a real difference to millions of customers across the UK, from basement flats in London to the most rural homes in the country. Our customers want to be able to call and text no matter where they are, and they don’t want to have to think about which app they need to use or if their friends have a particular third party service.”
The operator will now turn its attention to VoLTE, with it looking to launch its next calling service later in 2015. EE rival Three launched its own Wi-Fi calling service last year, although it was through an app, rather than native.