South Africa: Vodacom Launches Voice Over Wifi in South Africa

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Vodacom has made its first ever commercial voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) call in South Africa.

Although the service is currently live across the Vodacom network, it is limited to one device, for now.

Typically reserved for data, Vodacom said that the move to use Wi-Fi technology to carry voice traffic will mean better call quality for consumers. By effectively integrating WiFi into its network as another voice carrier, the mobile operator said it ensuring a seamless voice experience no matter what the connection (2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, Wi-Fi).

The first call, made at the company's Midrand office on 4 June, was placed by Vodacom's network engineering officer, Beverly Ngwenya, to Vodacom's chief technology officer Andries Delport.

Commenting on the achievement Delport said: "Our network team works hard to ensure we're always one-step ahead and leading the adaption of new mobile technology. This was the case with Voice over LTE (VoLTE), which we launched earlier this year, as well as when we first launched our LTE/4G network in 2012. Voice over WiFi is the next step in ensuring the best quality voice calls for our customers."

VoWiFi differs from other applications that allow voice calling over a data network, in that it uses the built-in voice dialing 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 South Africa that have the ability to make VoWiFi calls. However, Vodacom said it 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. Calls made over a Wi-Fi network will be billed using existing minutes. No data costs will be incurred when making a Wi-Fi call, the operator said.

Vodacom revealed that 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.

The inclusion of VoWiFi technology is part of Vodacom's ongoing network investment programme, the group said. Over the past three years Vodacom 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.
Source: COI East Africa 18 August 2015