4G Calling (aka 4G Super-Voice or VoLTE) gives you higher-quality phone calls and better indoor phone call coverage.
When 4G technology was first launched in the UK, it was designed only to carry mobile data. So whilst you could use a 4G connection to browse the web with super-fast download speeds, you couldn’t make regular mobile phone calls on a 4G connection. Because of this, most 4G mobile phones today will still fall back to either a 2G or 3G connection when you make or receive a call.
4G Calling (also known in the UK as 4G Super-Voice or VoLTE) is a new technology that allows you to make and receive phone calls over a 4G connection. It means your mobile phone is no longer required to fallback to either 2G or 3G every time you need to make or receive a call. This gives you a more reliable phone call experience, along with other benefits such as higher-quality HD Voice phone calls, better indoor coverage with lower-frequency spectrum, and faster download speeds whilst you’re on a call.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about 4G Calling in the UK. We’ll discuss how the service works and how you’re able to use it on different UK mobile networks. We’ll also discuss the limitations of the technology and possible alternative solutions.
What is 4G Calling?
4G Calling (also known in the UK as 4G Super-Voice or VoLTE) is a new technology that allows you to make and receive phone calls whilst connected to a 4G network. It replaces the older CSFB technology, where your phone will fall back to either a 2G or 3G connection whenever you want to make or receive a phone call.
The benefits of 4G Calling are as follows:
- More reliable phone calls. Traditionally, 4G mobile networks have made use of CSFB technology (circuit-switched fall-back technology). With CSFB, your mobile phone will switch back to either a 2G or 3G connection when you make a call. This switch-over doesn’t always happen successfully, leading to occasional call failures. With 4G Calling, this switch-over is no longer necessary so phone calls should work more reliably and should come through more quickly.
- Better indoor coverage with lower-frequency spectrum. The UK mobile networks have been rolling out 4G technology at lower-frequency 800MHz spectrum. Compared to the 3G networks which have traditionally used 2100MHz, this lower-frequency spectrum travels much further indoors. As a result, you should get better quality indoor coverage for your phone calls.
- Faster download speeds whilst connected to 4G. As your phone no longer needs to fall back to the slower 2G or 3G network whilst you’re making a phone call, you’ll be able to stay on 4G which means you’ll have the fastest download speeds even whilst on a call.
- Seamless ability to continue Wi-Fi Calling phone calls. If you’re using Wi-Fi Calling functionality, your phone calls will be able to continue on 4G Calling when you leave the range of the wi-fi network.
4G Calling: By Network
You can use 4G Calling on any type of BT Mobile price plan, including Pay Monthly contracts, SIM Only and Family SIM. However, the service only works on the iPhone 6 and newer, plus selected Android smartphones purchased directly from BT Mobile:
You can see a full list of compatible handsets and plans on the BT Mobile website.
On EE, it’s possible to use 4G Calling on any Pay Monthly plan, providing you’re in an area that’s covered and providing you have one of the following compatible smartphones:
On iD Mobile, access to 4G Calling is available on all Pay Monthly price plans, providing you’re in an area that’s covered by the service. At the time of writing, the following handsets are supported by iD Mobile:
On O2, you’ll have access to 4G Calling on Pay Monthly and SIM Only contracts, providing you have one of the following compatible devices:
If you have an Android-based smartphone, your device will typically need to be running on O2-provided firmware. In most cases, this means your handset will need to have been purchased directly from O2. However, it will also work on certain handsets purchased from a third-party provider.
Three refers their 4G Calling service as 4G Super-Voice. This refers to the fact that their 4G Calling service uses lower-frequency 800MHz spectrum to break indoors (previously used by the broadcast television channels before the digital switchover). With the signal travelling further indoors, you should benefit from wider calling & texting coverage, along with higher-quality phone calls.
At the time of writing, Three’s 4G Super-Voice is available on the iPhone 6 and newer (purchased anywhere) and on selected Android smartphones that have been purchased from Three:
Vodafone offers 4G Calling to Pay Monthly customers with either a Red, Red Extra, Red Entertainment or Red Value plan. It’s also available to most Vodafone Business customers.
To use 4G Calling, you’ll need a compatible handset as listed on the Vodafone website:
All Android devices will need to have been purchased directly from Vodafone to be compatible with 4G Calling.
Unfortunately, 4G Calling isn’t yet available on other mobile networks like giffgaff, Plusnet Mobile, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile.
How To Enable 4G Calling On Your Phone
Once you have a compatible price plan and handset, you’ll also need to switch on the 4G Calling functionality on your smartphone before you can use it.
If you’re using an iPhone, you can switch on the 4G Calling feature by going to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Enable LTE. Select the option to use LTE for both ‘Voice & Data’.
On Android devices, the exact location of this setting will vary. However, you’ll often be able to find it through Settings > Connections > Mobile networks > 4G calling or Settings > More > Mobile networks > Enable VoLTE.
Drawbacks & Limitations
4G Calling is a fantastic feature, and a good addition to being able to make phone calls on 2G and 3G. However, there are also some major drawbacks and limitations of the service at present:
- 4G Calling only works on a limited number of handsets. At present, handset compatibility for 4G Calling is patchy. This is especially the case if you’re using an Android device, which will normally need to have been purchased directly from your mobile network. This requirement means that 4G Calling often won’t work on unlocked smartphones, and on devices purchased from third-party retailers like the Carphone Warehouse.
- Network settings may be set up to prefer 3G Calling. Typically, it isn’t possible to “force” your handset to use 4G Calling. In some cases, the network settings may be set up in such a way to prefer 3G over 4G.
- 4G Calling only works in the UK. If you’re travelling abroad, it won’t typically be possible to use 4G Calling.
Using voice-over-IP applications such as WhatsApp and Skype can be an alternative to 4G Calling. You can use these applications to make a phone call whilst you’re connected to 4G but it won’t use your regular phone number or price plan. In cases where you’re doing something like calling abroad, this may sometimes work in your favour as it may be cheaper to use one of these services.