back to article Three VoLTEs to victory as it jumps into UK 4G voice offering

Mobe network Three is the first to offer UK 4G voice services, with the service going live Tuesday, taking advantage of the 800MHz spectrum which Three bought in the 2013 auction. The “low” 800MHz frequency gives much better coverage than existing services through other frequencies. Three claims its customers "will be able to …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Voice over LTE (Long Term Advanced – "VoLTE") - a committee should be convened to tell el Reg it's Evolution not Advanced. The clue is the letter 'E' in LTE

  2. Paul 25

    So is the difference in quality "dramatic" or "marginal"?

    That whole paragraph makes no sense.

    1. Champ

      Re: So is the difference in quality "dramatic" or "marginal"?

      Just what I was thinking!

      C'mon, El Reg - if ever an article needed a sub-editor, then it's this one.

    2. DaLo

      Re: So is the difference in quality "dramatic" or "marginal"?

      It is the paragraph spacing that makes it confusing.

      Try this:

      "The primary advantages of VoLTE are that it’s more spectrum efficient: mobe operators can carry more calls with less infrastructure, but it also offers quicker call set-up and much lower latency; This is dramatic if you make a 2G or 3G call to someone in the same room and then make a VoLTE one.

      The call quality is a shade better but, given that it’s using the same codecs as 3G, the difference is marginal."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So is the difference in quality "dramatic" or "marginal"?

      Perhaps dramatic was referring to the latency not quality (albeit from in the previous paragraph)

  3. The Alphabet

    What Three haven't said is that its only available to devices supplied from Three (excluding iPhones). So my Nexus 6 (which is VoLTE capable) can't use it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Devices supplied from Three

      Why? As far as I know they don't customise the firmware? (Happy to be corrected on that...)

      I did notice recently that Three have released a VOIP app which is supposed to give you call coverage in Wifi enabled spots which don't have phone coverage - so I'm wondering if they're bundling a helper app to achieve this?

      1. ARGO

        Re: Devices supplied from Three

        All the uk networks customise firmware. And in the case of VoLTE there's no alternative: it has a bucketful of settings that have to be aligned throughout the system - including handset - or the service simply doesn't work. So it's custom builds only until the technology matures I'm afraid... Which leaves the nexus out in the cold as google doesn't allow customisation on that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You may find that the Project Fi version for the Nexus 6 does what you want. It should be possible to download and install it even if that means you have to reinstall your data.

  4. D.A.

    "Across the country", my a$$!

    They still haven't managed to roll out 4G data *anywhere* in Northern Ireland yet, despite originally promising to have it by the end of 2014...

  5. Craigie

    Ohhh, voice. I thought it was something useful, i.e., data.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid continues...

    For a truly seamless experience, we need VoLTE AND VoWiFi, but what we currently have is two half-efforts (EE & Three), a clusterfuck (Vodafone), and a 'no comment' from O2:

    EE: VoWiFi, but no clear commitment to VoLTE

    Three: VoLTE, but no clear commitment to VoWiFi beyond "something we're looking into"

    Vodafone: Supposedly launched VoWiFi this week, yet their telephone and Twitter support staff don't even seem to know what it is, let alone 'activate' it. VoLTE was supposed to launch at the same time, but apparently this hasn't happened, nor do any of their staff know anything about it - contrary to statements made by Vodafone in Q1.

    O2: Seemingly aren't bothered about launching either (though as they're going through the process of being acquired by Three, this can be forgiven IMO).

    Gotta love the UK mobile industry...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid continues...

      "Three: VoLTE, but no clear commitment to VoWiFi beyond "something we're looking into""

      Three have had "VoWiFi" or voip for some time. It is via their Three inTouch app.

      1. Ben 47

        Re: Stupid continues...

        It's not the same. VoWiFi from EE doesn't require a separate app - it just works and you can use calls and texts as if you were connected to a mobile mast.

        With the Three app, you have to have the app running and depending on what it decides to do your text messages will only appear in the app and not in your normal messaging app.

        The upside of the Three version is that it's available on more phones than EE's way of doing it

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid continues...

      "EE: VoWiFi, but no clear commitment to VoLTE"

      EE have already announced they will roll out VOLTE on their 800mhz spectrum in the next 10 weeks.

  7. badger31

    Pain point

    “Not being able to use your phone as and when you want, no matter where you are, is one of the biggest pain points for customers,"

    As a Three customer I would say that paying more and losing unlimited tethering in return for the 'free' upgrade to 4G has been the biggest pain point for me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pain point

      As a new Three customer, I discovered in Spain recently that tethering is disabled in all of the new 'as if you were home' roaming regions, even if you're paying for tethering.

      NOT HAPPY to find that out. Particularly since our iPad is Wifi-only and there was no Wifi where we were staying.

      This is mentioned somewhere in the fine print if you look very hard for it, but the Three salespeople will not tell you this.

      1. Ben 47

        Re: Pain point

        The exclusion of tethering for Feel at Home is on the main page for it

        Although they seem to have have change the 'fair usage' limit from 25GB to 12GB since I signed up to Three in June!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pain point

      I get 4G and I'm on the same Three unlimited plan that I've always been on.

      1. Thecowking

        Re: Pain point

        Yeah I'm on a grandfathered all you can eat plan which includes tethering, I just got a new phone and it works with 4G. No upgrade required, except the obvious hardware one.

        1. badger31

          Re: Pain point

          Be careful with the grandfather plans. Both my wife and I were on 'The One' plans. I got booted off when I didn't continue paying extra for the phone. My wife was on a pay monthly sim-only One plan (paying ~£15pm IIRC) when she received a letter informing her the One plan was no more and she was automatically being moved onto an equivalent plan costing ~£35pm. We weren't happy with that, so now she's paying the same, but getting only 1GB of data per month, which we are obviously not happy about, either. We wanted to quit on principal, but the bastards arestill the best value for our needs.

  8. Christian Berger

    The question is, will it work

    I mean VoLTE is VoIP over LTE with _lots_ of complexity added to allow things like international roaming and handover to 3G and GSM networks. Given that today many companies (cough Cisco, cough Mitel, cough 3CX...) can't even properly implement the comparatively simple subset of SIP you need to make everyday phonecalls, I doubt that it'll work reliably any time soon. And even when it works it'll be a security nightmare, as all the miss features of classical SS7 networks have been re-implemented.

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Verizon VoLTE

    In the US, Verizon's gotten VoLTE recently; MetroPCS rolled it out first (after running CDMA 1x, rolling out EVDO in like 1 market then shutting it down, they went straight from CDMA 1X to LTE+VoLTE.) T-Mobile bought MetroPCS and AFAIK T-Mobile has VoLTE on their LTE coverage too.

    The 800mhz LTE will definitely improve the reach of 1800mhz sites. I've used 700mhz LTE + 1900mhz everything else (CDMA, EVDO), rurally you get substantial extra range from the 700mhz, I got to areas out in the hills where I had a bar or two of LTE and no service for voice (my phone doesn't support VoLTE.) Urban setting, the 700mhz is typically "detuned" so you're not getting like 5 bars of 4G where you'd get a bar or two of 1900, they will be similar. If the 700 was blasting out and getting like double the range, it'd interfere with neighboring LTE sites. Other markets I've used 800mhz cellular + 700mhz LTE and the signal strength is similar.

    In terms of VoLTE, I do have one useful bit of information. People in the states were quite concerned about VoLTE coverage. In some cities, you'd have this swiss cheese coverage of 4G with various pockets of 3G coverage. Also, some rural areas would show a fringe of 3G coverage. Losing 4G would drop a VoLTE call. Don't fret! The 4G to 3G handoff's a (cell site) tuneable parameter (if a low 4G and low 3G signal get the user similar speeds, why not kick them to 3G?) BUT, people with VoLTE-capable phones have found if they start a VoLTE call, the phone stays in 4G well past he point it'd normally lose it (and the superweak LTE has no problem carrying the 8kb/sec or whatever the call needs.) I recall one person (who got their phone into a diagnostic display) saying their phone would hold LTE in a VoLTE call about 20db lower signal strength than it would switch off otherwise.

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