Vodafone Ireland launches VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling, expands 5G testbed

19 Mar 2019

Image: © sbw19/Stock.adobe.com

4G and Wi-Fi Calling herald higher-quality calls, especially in blackspot areas.

Vodafone has launched 4G Calling, or Voice over LTE (VoLTE), as well as Wi-Fi Calling, while also expanding its 5G testbed in Dublin.

4G Calling uses the operator’s 4G network to carry voice calls for customers with compatible handsets and enables faster call set-up times and higher-definition sound.

Vodafone Ireland head of networks, Max Gasparroni, told Siliconrepublic.com that the technology is enabled by a native dialler that is integrated into the phone, requiring no app, and guarantees seamless handover compared with 2G and 3G networks.

VoLTE from the blue

“4G Calling offers a number of advantages. First of all, if you are using data on the phone, the incoming call won’t interrupt the data experience. 2G and 3G are still HD calls, but with 4G going forward you are going to see an increase in quality and there are more innovations coming down the track.

“When you make a call over 4G, it means your call is a call over mobile data and it is integrated into the phone, and if you go outside a 4G area it goes seamlessly to 3G.”

Gasparroni said that the VoLTE capability has been switched on across Vodafone’s entire network in Ireland.

Wi-Fi Calling a solution for blackspots?

Gasparroni explained that Wi-Fi Calling differs from the traditional femtocell capability used to boost 3G calls in that the phone interacts with the Wi-Fi router instead of requiring additional hardware.

The new technology will help to eliminate mobile blackspots in the home or office if there is a strong Wi-Fi connection or weak/poor indoor mobile coverage.

The technology can also hand over the call directly to the 4G network if a user moves from the home or office to the outdoors.

Recent ComReg studies revealed that Ireland faces a unique set of challenges in that 76pc of the country is covered by either farmland or forestry; that Ireland’s road density is twice the EU average, with more than 20km for every 1,000 inhabitants; and that there are other hurdles for communication such as long distances from cell sites, environmental barriers such as hills and trees, and a high proportion of one-off housing. Not only that but modern insulation in houses also prevents radio waves from penetrating buildings.

“Voice over Wi-Fi is going to be integrated into bundles along with data and voice,” Gasparroni said.

Phones compatible with the new services at launch include the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S10 followed by recent models of the Apple iPhone.

“It will eventually encompass all phones made in the last two years. Some phones, like the Samsung S8 and S10, will be ready from day one but others will get over-the-air updates.”

5G expansion

In February last year, Vodafone and Ericsson achieved achieved 15Gbps speeds with a latency of less than five milliseconds using 5G beam-forming technologies.

In November that year, Vodafone opened Ireland’s first live 5G network site for trials in Dublin’s docklands, as well as announcing a 5G start-up accelerator with NovaUCD.

This week it revealed that it is extending its live 5G network testbed coverage in the Dublin docklands to enable more businesses to trial 5G products prior to launch in the marketplace.

“It is going to cover all of the docklands, around the Convention Centre and down to the port,” Gasparroni explained. “It will enable different use cases and, through innovations by ourselves, Ericsson and NovaUCD, there are quite a few companies working on interesting use cases.”

In terms of a wider commercial roll-out of 5G in Ireland, he said: “We anticipate to start commercially towards the end of the year and we will have the first handsets this year.

“At the beginning, 5G will enable a plethora of new use cases. In the beginning, users will experience faster speeds, but it will enable also real-time, mission-critical services. It is going to be a progressive journey,” Gasparroni concluded.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years