Mobile operator 3 UK announced that embedded Wi-Fi is now available on its network for both Android and iOS users. With it, customers can make voice calls and send texts over a Wi-Fi network when in the U.K. Users of Apple’s iOS phones need to have the latest software version, iOS 10.2, and then activate Wi-Fi calling in their settings. For Android users who have a compatible device and the necessary software, the Wi-Fi calling settings install automatically. Compatible devices currently are the LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge will be compatible beginning in mid-February. The new service removes the need for the operator’s former Wi-Fi calling solution, Three InTouch app. InTouch users will receive a pop-up message informing them that they can delete the app.
The rise of non-cellular voice calling technology was originally a threat to mobile operators’ revenue streams because it allowed users to bypass calling plans and get access to unlimited messaging and voice calls, both domestically and internationally. Operators responded in various ways, including tolerating, co-opting or co-branding various VoIP services. Another non-cellular voice calling system, Wi-Fi calling, now becoming prevalent, is another technology that lies outside the traditional cellular calling networks. Rather than constituting an end-run around the operator, Wi-Fi calling is a billable service that keeps the user within the operator’s ecosystem. Its primary utility is when the cellular signal is too weak or unavailable, so with Wi-Fi calling that is billed within an existing calling plan, the operator can keep its subscribers using voice and text services even when they are in so-called “not-spots”—which are, according to reports, still quite prevalent in the U.K. By making access to Wi-Fi calling seamless instead of through an app, the operator ensures that more subscribers will adopt it, and that those who used it before will now use it more often. Therefore, 3 UK’s decision to make Wi-Fi calling “native” to a wide variety of smartphones in both major operating systems is an excellent one. Easily, intuitively accessible Wi-Fi calling will aid customer retention because rather than becoming frustrated with the operator’s service when the cellular network is unavailable, users will be able to connect by Wi-Fi (given that Wi-Fi networks are sufficiently prevalent) and stay satisfied.