By Staff Writer
Beverly Ngwenya, Vodacom’s Network Engineering Officer, activated a first ever commercial voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) call in South Africa on 4 June at the mobile phone operator’s Midrand office.
Typically reserved for data, the move to use WiFi technology to carry voice traffic will mean better call quality for consumers.
By effectively integrating WiFi into its network as another voice carrier Vodacom is ensuring a seamless voice experience no matter what the connection (2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, WiFi).
Ngwenya used the call to contact Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport.
“No matter how prepared you are when you switch on a new service; it’s always a little nerve-wracking. The first thing I did was call Andries to let him know we’d been successful and everything was working exactly as planned,” said Ngwenya, who was responsible for the deployment of the service.
The service is currently live across the Vodacom network.
“Aside from seamless call quality there are a number of consumer benefits that come with WiFi calling. One of the most significant is the ability to make a call using your cellphone number with no need for additional apps,” said Delport.
VoWiFi differs from other applications that allow voice calling over a data network, in that it uses the built-in voice dialling feature of the phone and thus your normal cellphone number to make a call.
At present there are only a small number of test Samsung Galaxy S6 devices in the country that have the ability to make VoWiFi calls. However, Vodacom is working closely with Samsung on a software update which will be released to the public once final testing is complete.
VoWiFi technology will also be able to assist in improving coverage where normal cell signals battle to reach, such as inside big office blocks or in the basement of shopping centres. In the future VoWiFi will also offer a solution for remote sites that have WiFi coverage like guest lodges based in game reserves.
Calls made over a WiFi network will be billed using existing minutes. No data costs will be incurred when making a WiFi call.
The inclusion of VoWiFi technology is part of Vodacom’s ongoing network investment programme.
Over the past three years the company has spent over R22.5 billion to ensure it has the widest coverage with the best quality experience.
In this time Vodacom has upgraded its entire radio access network, increased its 3G coverage to reach over 96% of the South African population and rolled out over 3 600 LTE/4G sites. On top of this it has launched Enhanced Voice services (including HD Voice), VoLTE and EAP-SIM technology within the last year alone.