Several months ago Optus quietly changed their mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreements in a way that will greatly increase voice call quality and the number of places where voice calls can be made by Optus MVNO customers.

The change Optus made was enabling Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and WiFi calling (VoWiFi) across its 4G mobile network for MVNO wholesale partners using the Optus mobile network. Optus is the first Australian mobile network operator to give it’s MVNO’s access to VoLTE and VoWiFi.

What are VoLTE and VoWiFi?

VoLTE works by utilising 4G technology to make calls, as opposed to dropping down to 3G when a call connection takes place.

By allowing both call and data services to be carried on the same 4G network, VoLTE enables you to use the Internet on your phone while making calls. VoLTE also provides you with shorter call connection times and higher quality voice calls.

Optus wholesale partners are now also able to benefit from voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) or WiFi Calling – which allows users with a compatible device to make and receive calls or text where there is limited mobile coverage but an accessible WiFi service, such as home, office or public WiFi.

When WiFi Calling is switched on and if there is insufficient mobile coverage, a device automatically detects and switches to an authorised WiFi connection to use voice and messaging services. When using WiFi Calling or VoLTE, no additional charges will be made on top of regular voice call rates and customers’ mobile data will not be consumed.

Optus and Moose Mobile perspectives

To find out more we had a chat with Dean Lwin, CEO of QLD based Optus MVNO Moose Mobile which is one of the first Optus MVNO’s to enable VoLTE and VOWiFi and the first I’ve seen promote it to their customers.

Dean told Ausdroid:

“There are two important things apart from price to consider when trying a new Telco”.

“Firstly, coverage reliability. Moose Mobile customers can now make calls over 4G (VoLTE) and a WiFi network (VoWiFi), and this is especially important if you’re one of the unlucky people that have a mobile phone black spot where you live or work. What used to happen, and still does for most MVNOs, is that calls can only be made with 3G, while all data traffic happens over 4G. So being able to make calls over data and Wi-Fi is critical if you want a premium network experience”.

“Secondly, these days it is important to make sure that if you do have a problem with your Telco that they fix it fast and without hassle. So when we recently won the Product Review award for being the most highly rated MVNO in the country for the fourth year straight, it was extremely satisfying. All the hard work and customer focus has certainly paid off for both us and our customers”.

Ben White, Managing Director, Wholesale, Satellite and Strategy, said the new VoLTE and VoWiFi services would provide new value and an improved experience for Optus MVNO customers:

“VoLTE will be progressively rolled out to our MVNO partners and will provide higher quality audio and faster call connection times. Multi-tasking is made easy as customers can browse the web, download files or run apps while simultaneously on a call over 4G”.

“WiFi Calling is automatically provisioned with VoLTE and makes staying connected easier when mobile signal is limited and there is an available WiFi service. It is particularly useful indoors and solves the problem of coverage holes in areas where mobile signals can struggle to penetrate”.

“We’re excited to be the first mobile network operator to offer our MVNO partners the benefits of VoLTE, which is available everywhere the Optus 4G network reaches. We understand that high-quality connectivity and value is critical to our partners, which is why we’re committed to continuously improve our products and services”.

Practical benefits, tips and tricks

VoLTE and VoWiFi are not super interesting features, but they are quite powerful, especially if you live or work in a building where your mobile network signal is really weak inside or you have no coverage at all. For you, they’re fantastic.

Interestingly if VoWiFi works for you then you’ll also be able to send and receive SMS and MMS over Wi-Fi. I just tested this using a Moose Mobile SIM on a Nokia 7 Plus, I turned off mobile data, turned on WiFI and the test SMS was still sent immediately to a Telstra SIM phone.

Voice over WiFi was heavily used by Ausdroid Managing Editor Chris and his family. Their previous home was in a valley with minimal mobile reception but they still enjoyed seamless mobile coverage thanks to Voice over WiFi over their NBN connection. Without it voice calls would often fail. With it they worked perfectly in and around the house.

Wi-Fi calling works best if you have a relatively recent 4G compatible phone. Your phone has to support VoLTE and VoWifi and these have to be turned on.

Some phones, especially older ones, require the carrier’s particular software to be installed on the phone – this means your Samsung Galaxy S9 might only support the feature if it was a Telstra branded phone; we’ve heard stories of Optus branded phones not supporting the feature on Telstra and vice versa.

Of the various Android phones out there Samsung’s Galaxy/Note/A models and Google Pixel phones are the most commonly compatible with Wi-Fi calling.

They tend to work these days regardless of what branding they have – your Optus sourced Samsung will almost certainly work on another carrier now, whereas once it may not have. I tested on a TCL phone and a Nokia and both worked fine with VoLTE and VoWiFi.

Even if your phone supports VoLTE and VoWiFi they might not be enabled. Have a look in your phone Settings, Network & Internet, Mobile Network, then enable VoLTE and WiFi Calling / VoWiFi.

When your phone has these enabled and your mobile carrier supports the features,you’ll notice the little VoLTE or VoWiFi icon in your status bar ready to make/receive calls.