The unfold of Wi-Fi Calling throughout the UK’s main operators, which makes use of your house or different WiFi (broadband) service to run cellular calls and textual content (SMS) messages, has resulted within the gradual phasing-out of indoor femtocell sign boosters. However some individuals nonetheless need these, so we got down to discover which operators will assist them.
Till lately the entire main UK cellular operators provided Cellular Sign Booster units – Three UK (Residence Sign), EE (Sign Field), O2 (BoostBox) and Vodafone (Certain Sign). Crucially, these aren’t the identical as indoor sign repeaters that merely enhance an present sign, as an alternative these units had been usually offered to customers in areas (e.g. rural areas) the place no 3G sign existed in any respect, or the place the sign was too weak to be dependable.
The thought is easy sufficient. The machine is plugged into a hard and fast line broadband ISP community, which permits it to harness your house or workplace web connection so as to create its personal indoor 3G cellular sign (microcell / femtocell) over a selected band (e.g. 2100MHz). A minimal obtain pace of between 0.5Mbps to 1Mbps was usually required for this to work, in addition to about half that in add efficiency.
Nevertheless, the appearance of WiFi Calling (VoWiFi), which permits customers with supporting Smartphones to harness a close-by wi-fi community so as to make cellular voice calls or ship textual content messages, has steadily been lowering the necessity for such boosters. As has the ever-expanding protection of 4G providers, not least by means of the brand new Shared Rural Network (SRN) challenge (latest progress).
The largest downside with WiFi Calling, maybe not in contrast to the sign boosting options earlier than it, is that it’s not but an ideal service. Help for WiFi Calling stays a little bit of a combined bag and is partly dependent upon the potential of your Smartphone (be aware: many individuals nonetheless use primary mobiles). Likewise, some operators assist voice calls however battle with texts, whereas in different instances you gained’t have the ability to get both on sure plans.
Equally, WiFi Calling might battle to work if the wi-fi sign is weak or congested with numerous customers. On high of that, the characteristic is principally designed to kick in round areas of weak cellular sign, however some have discovered points with name stability when shifting between rooms in areas the place the distinction between WiFi and Cellular sign power may be extremely variable (i.e. the transition must be seamless, however that’s not all the time the case).
NOTE: Sluggish broadband speeds (sub 1Mbps) are additionally a problem right here (ensuing extra in poor high quality calls), however that may be true of the sign boosting units too.
Suffice to say that some customers have opted to proceed utilizing Femtocell Cellular Sign Boosters as an alternative, however many are involved about the way forward for these units. In response, we’ve tried to search out out the present state of play as finest we will from every operator.
Vodafone (Certain Sign)
As above, Vodafone stopped promoting their Certain Sign (v3) units final April 2020 and so they goal to utterly withdraw the service by September 2021.
Three UK (Residence Sign)
Three additionally stopped promoting their Residence Sign units final yr, though they’re at the moment nonetheless supporting present customers. We did ask Three what their plans had been for future assist or retirement, and so they promised us a response, however after a number of days of ready – and two nudges to reply – no reply got here.
EE (Sign Field)
We all know from previous feedback that EE have formally “phased sign containers out in favour of WiFi calling.” On the time of writing, we’re conscious of a number of individuals with working models, though EE stay obscure about how lengthy their assist for present prospects will final. A spokesperson instructed ISPreview.co.uk: “EE prospects can now hold linked in much more locations with WiFi Calling, providing a superior expertise and so the EE Sign Field is not available for purchase from our web site. We proceed to assist present EE Sign Field prospects and our contact centre colleagues are all the time readily available to reply any questions prospects might have.”
At current, O2 (VMO2) are the one cellular operator nonetheless capable of provide their BoostBox to new prospects (here), albeit solely enterprise prospects. A spokesperson for the operator instructed ISPreview.co.uk: “The service remains to be out there for purchasers to purchase, and any present or new O2 Enterprise or Enterprise Buyer can order a Boostbox. The service for customers remains to be WiFi calling. We’ve no plans to withdraw the service presently.”
Prefer it or not, these units are a relic of the previous, and people who nonetheless exist most likely gained’t be round for for much longer. The truth that most of them are based mostly off 3G bands and expertise is one other inevitable nail within the coffin, since most operators are at the moment getting ready to sundown associated bands in favour of 4G and 5G providers within the close to future. The exception could be O2’s BoostBox, which works with each 4G and 3G.