By Steve McCaskill
EE has started rolling out voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) to its pay monthly and SMB customers and claims five million subscribers will be able to take advantage by this summer.
The operator says the ability to be able to make and receive calls and texts using an existing WiFi connection will help those who cannot receive a 3G or 4G signal in parts of their home or small office, impacting productivity and harming business.
Unlike over-the-top applications, like Skype or Three inTouch, EE's VoWiFi uses a smartphone's native dialer and messaging application.
The first compatible device is the Lumia 640, while the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will be added on April 10. EE says new and existing smartphones will be added over the coming weeks. Support for corporate handsets will be added this summer.
"Losing coverage at home is a major frustration, and WiFi calling will make a real difference to millions of customers across the U.K., 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 company claims one quarter of people in the U.K. spend at least one day a week working at home, with a fifth of these losing connectivity at least once a day. One in 10 people have at least one room or more in their home where there is no signal, a figure that rises to 15 percent in rural areas.
VoWiFi is considered by many operators to be a way of improving indoor and rural coverage, with Vodafone also working on a native service for its customers. All four networks have pledged to invest a combined £5 billion in their infrastructure to improve rural coverage in a bid to fend off government plans to force the creation of a 'national roaming' network.