Over the past week we have been hearing about issues that some rural Australians are having installing the COVIDSafe app. This is because Telstra, unlike Vodafone and Optus, didn’t have SMS over WiFi, which prevented 2FA texts from being received by people who don’t have mobile phone reception. Importantly, is an issue that also impacts other 2FA SMS as well as emergency texts. During our investigation into this Telstra started quietly rolling the feature out.
We knew Telstra was going to be looking at finally rolling out SMS Over WiFi, but the telco was unable to provide Gizmodo Australia a clear timeline. It appears the decision may have been tied to COVID-19 and the need for the COVIDSafe app in rural communities. Comments received from both Telstra and the Federal Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher to Gizmodo last week indicated that the telco was working on a solution to 2FA for the COVIDSafe app specifically.
“Telstra customers in areas that do not have mobile coverage are unable to send or receive SMS over WiFi. We have been working to introduce this capability into the network and will now accelerate the work required. We are also working closely with the DTA on alternative methods for the COVIDSafe app to send an authentication code,” a Telstra spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
“The government is aware that Telstra handsets presently do not support SMS over wi-fi, meaning that those in areas with poor mobile coverage may experience challenges in completing the process to download and register the COVIDSafe App (as the process involves receiving a code via SMS),”a spokesperson for the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, said in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
While Telstra’s statement indicated that it was working on introducing SMS Over WiFi, no time frame was given. Telstra has now confirmed with Gizmodo Australia that the feature has begun rolling out on iOS and Samsung devices as of today.
“SMS over WiFi updates for customers’ smartphones have gone live overnight and will roll out progressively over the next seven days. Some Telstra customers will already see the functionality available on their devices.” said a Telstra spokesperson in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
This confirmation comes after several comments on a Whirlpool forum from @BeauGiles on Tuesday, which said the rollout of SMS over Wifi was functional across iOS devices. The update was reportedly included in a carrier bundle update for iOS 13.4.
Gizmodo Australia was able to replicate this in its own testing on an iPhone SE:
I also tested this by having a friend with an Android device send an SMS to my iPhone SE while the device was in airplane mode and with mobile data switched off. It worked.
We are currently waiting on further comment from Telstra regarding confirmed devices that SMS Over Wifi will work on now and in the near future.
How to Enable SMS Over WiFi On iPhone
All you need to do is go to:
- Settings > General > About
- Your device will have already updated the carrier settings or it will ask you to do this
- Restart your device
- You’ll know it has worked if you go to Settings > General > About > Service Provider and the IMS says ‘Voice and SMS’
It's had a mixed reception due to confusion around how it works on iOS and concerns around it affecting battery life. But there have also been positives, such as some devs discovering that the privacy of the app was better than expected. But one of the lesser highlighted issues is how many rural Australians aren't able to register for the app at all.Read more