Even in the modern world of global connectivity, 5G, and instant messaging, there are still occasions when we cannot make a phone call or have a call cut off midway due to bad reception. While there are some instances where you will find yourself simply unable to make a call, enabling Wi-Fi calling on your phone raises your chances of finding a connection and being able to make a call.
Wi-Fi calling allows you to make calls using your Wi-Fi connection rather than your standard phone connection. This can be particularly useful in areas with poor phone reception but a good broadband connection. Once you have enabled Wi-Fi calls, you don't decide whether to use the phone or the Wi-Fi network; your phone evaluates both signals and decides for you.
So how does Wi-Fi calling work? Do all networks offer it? And how can you enable it on your phone?
We are going to explore all these questions and more as we jump into answering, what is Wi-Fi calling?
Wi-Fi calls work the same way as regular phone calls for the phone user, as you simply dial a number and talk to the recipient. However, for the network providers, Wi-Fi calls differ from regular phone calls as the call is routed to a Wi-Fi network rather than a mobile network.
A Wi-Fi call shouldn't cost you any extra money, but it will reduce your minutes on your contract in the same way a regular call does.
So let's now find out how you can enable Wi-Fi calling on your phone.
To use Wi-Fi calling, you must first enable it on your phone settings. You can usually find the Wi-Fi calling option under the call or network settings. If you can't find it in your settings app, search for it in the search bar. If it still doesn't appear, it may mean your phone does not have a Wi-Fi calling option.
Once you have enabled Wi-Fi calling, your phone will automatically detect the strongest network available when you make a call - either your phone network or the Wi-Fi network.
So enabling Wi-Fi calling doesn't mean that all of your calls are automatically routed through Wi-Fi. Rather, it means that your call will be routed through whichever of the two networks is strongest when you make it.
Wi-Fi calling is part of a protocol known as the Generic Access Network (GAN), which provides data and multimedia extensions over IP networks. Wi-Fi calling (or 'VoWiFi') is the latest version of the GAN.
The GAN allows mobile phone connections to be forwarded to network points using the internet rather than phone networks. A device called a GAN Controller receives the internet data and then channels it into the phone network as if it were connected over the air.
The differences between regular and Wi-Fi calls occur within the network operating towers and are not experienced by the phone user.
You can still use the same features on a regular call when making a Wi-Fi call, such as three-way calling, speakerphone, holding calls, etc. So you shouldn't notice a difference whether your phone uses Wi-Fi or regular calling.
Wi-Fi calls are similar to making calls on apps like WhatsApp, Facebook chat, FaceTime, Skype, etc, as both use the internet rather than a phone network. However, Wi-Fi calls don't use data, whereas communication app calls do if there is no available Wi-Fi.
Communication app calls require you to download a specific app, whereas Wi-Fi calls are made without needing an app.
Another difference between Wi-Fi calls and communication app calls is that Wi-Fi calls use your monthly minutes, but app calls do not.
Most modern phones have a Wi-Fi calling feature. Some older phones don't offer it, and some phone network providers still do not allow for Wi-Fi calls even if the phone handset supports it.
You can check if your phone supports Wi-Fi calls by browsing the call settings, and if you are unsure if your network provider permits Wi-Fi calls, then contact them or check their website.
Most major UK Wi-Fi network providers allow for Wi-Fi calling. If you have a limit on the usage or bandwidth, it may impact your ability to make Wi-Fi calls.
You should check with your provider about how much data Wi-Fi calls will use and whether that is compatible with your contract. A minimum of 2 Mbps for Wi-Fi calls is generally recommended as a guideline.
As with Wi-Fi network providers, most major UK phone network providers allow Wi-Fi calling. Making a Wi-Fi call will deduct minutes from your total monthly limit, just as making a regular network call does.
What if you don't have a Wi-Fi connection?
If you don't have a stable Wi-Fi connection and have enabled Wi-Fi calling, your phone will use the standard phone network to make the call.
If you don't have a Wi-Fi connection and there is no phone signal, the call will not connect. In this instance, you could try using your data allowance and making a call via WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook chat, or another communication platform.
You can call emergency services on 999 via Wi-Fi calling. Enabling Wi-Fi calling can be a good idea for emergencies as your phone will find whatever network it can to ensure your emergency call is connected in time.
In most cases, Wi-Fi calls are treated as regular calls and do not charge any additional fees. However, unlike making calls on WhatsApp or Facebook, Wi-Fi calls will be deducted from your contract's monthly minutes.
The main advantage of Wi-Fi calling is that it provides a solid backup solution if you have a bad phone network signal. As we have seen, enabling Wi-Fi calling doesn't mean you will always make Wi-Fi calls; it only means that your phone will use the Wi-Fi connection if it is stronger than the phone signal.
If you make a call from your home, you are likely already connected to the Wi-Fi and close to the router. So, Wi-Fi calling can be a great way to ensure your calls are always connected if you live in a home with a bad phone signal.
Wi-Fi calling is also handy as you don't have to install specialist apps to make a call. Unlike calling on WhatsApp, FaceTime, or other similar communication apps, Wi-Fi calling is built into most modern phones and does not demand its own platform.
Most networks allow for overseas Wi-Fi calls, making Wi-Fi calling an easy and affordable way to call people abroad. However, before making an overseas Wi-Fi call, you should check with your provider that it is permissible and comes at no extra cost.
Finally, one of the main worries people have with regard to making Wi-Fi calls is that their conversation may be hacked in some way, especially if they are connected to a public network. But fear not, although the network may be unsecured, your provider automatically encrypts your voice calls whether they are made using standard phone networks or Wi-Fi networks. So either way, your call should be secure.
Wi-Fi calling can be a great alternative when making calls from your home, but it is far less reliable and stable when making calls in public. If you have connected to a public access Wi-Fi, maybe at a cafe or pub, there is limited bandwidth for all the users, and your call quality will likely be much weaker.
Furthermore, you are not always guaranteed to be able to connect to Wi-Fi. So if you are in a place with a poor phone signal, you may be better off making a call using 4G over WhatsApp, Facebook, FaceTime, etc.
There are also still some handsets and phone networks that don't support Wi-Fi calling. While it is becoming increasingly commonplace, you should still check with any new phone you get or provider you sign up with that they offer Wi-Fi calls, as it is by no means a given.
Most modern phones have an option to enable Wi-Fi calling, which means your phone will determine whether to use the Wi-Fi or the phone network to make a call based on which has the stronger signal. Wi-Fi calls won't cost you any extra, but they will use up minutes on your contract.
Wi-Fi calls are a good alternative to regular phone calls. There are few disadvantages to enabling Wi-Fi calls on your phone and allowing your phone to figure out which option would result in a clearer line. So check your settings and turn on your Wi-Fi calls today to ensure you get the best connection available.