This year, Telstra will let its customers make voice calls using their mobile numbers over their home Wi-Fi, seamlessly handing off voice calls from 4G to customers' in-home wireless networks when mobile coverage gets spotty. It's also working on its in-house-developed video calling service that will operate over 4G.
Voice over Wi-Fi, as the technology is called, lets voice calls move without interruption between different network standards. If you're on a voice call inside your house, for example, and are connected to your Wi-Fi network, a compatible Voice over WLAN device would hand off the call to the Wi-Fi network when and if 4G network coverage became inconsistent.
Just as Telstra has enabled support for voice over LTE on its network in the last year, the telco expects to roll out voice over Wi-Fi in a similar fashion. The two technologies are designed to be complementary, according to Telstra's head of networks Mike Wright. "It's transparent to the user — we stay on the 4G/VoLTE layer for calls, but if we need to we can transition to Wi-Fi if signal drops."
For existing devices, a software update should be all that is needed for Telstra to enable both voice over Wi-Fi; new handsets that manufacturers develop in concert with Telstra will have Voice over Wi-Fi baked in out of the box. It's a similar situation as the one Telstra sees with its Voice over LTE rollout — at the moment, customers with compatible devices can enable VoLTE by contacting Telstra, but in the future it will be switched on as standard.
The Wi-Fi calling feature should be available some time in 2016, says Telstra. Mike Wright says it needs some cooperation between Telstra and its manufacturer contacts, but that the process is well underway. "We continue to work with [partners], we're progressing very quickly - we're thinking around in the middle of the year". Taking inspiration from the fact that the vast majority of calls made between its own employees on in-house networks are video calls, Telstra is also working on a bespoke video over LTE, or ViLTE, service that will operate over its 4GX network in a similar timeframe.
Telstra's Mike Wright explained the addition of future features by saying that the process is an ongoing one for the telco. "The evolution of our network has been very important to us; it comes about by working closely with our partners, vendors and manufacturers. When you find some common ground, you find the greatest opportunities — that helps us bring products to market more quickly."