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Three UK Completes Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) Rollout on 4G

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020 (10:24 am) - Score 3,456
three uk mobile broadband

After five long years mobile operator Three UK has today announced that they’ve finally completed the rollout of their Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service (aka – “Super Voice“), which is now available across their entire 4G network (equating to around 11,000 sites). Next stop.. EVS.

The VoLTE service on Three UK’s network harnesses the 1800MHz and 2100MHz radio spectrum bands in order to deliver higher quality voice calling and text messages, which are then sent over the normally more data centric 4G (Long Term Evolution) network. The operator was the first to begin deploying this in 2015 (here).

Three states that 7.5 million customers on their network already own a VoLTE enabled device (i.e. 80% of their customer base should see some improvement). Additionally, VoLTE’s call speech quality is more reliable than 3G and it can be further enhanced with the use of Enhanced Voice Speech (EVS), which Three UK is “planning to introduce later this year.”

A spokesperson for Three UK said: “We now have over 11,000 sites enabling VoLTE on the 4G 1800/2100 MHz spectrum which will help improve customer experience. In the past, customers could find themselves dropping back to 3G, but with VoLTE now enabled, this will not happen.”

Meanwhile the future EVS standard has been around for a few years now and offers up to 20kHz of audio bandwidth, alongside better tolerance for delay jitter and packet loss etc. We should point out that some other UK operators, such as EE (BT), began launching EVS (marketed as “Enhanced HD Voice“) all the way back in 2017 (here).

One interesting thing to note about this announcement is that, back in 2015/16, Three UK said they intended to use Band 20 (800MHz) for VoLTE, although it gets no mention in today’s update despite being used for the service.

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20 Responses
  1. Avatar AnotherTim says:

    My local area only has Band 20 (800MHz) coverage from Three, but the on-line checker says “Our new 4G Super-Voice signal is available in this area” so maybe they have rolled it out to Band 20 too?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      They have, I’m just not sure why their update doesn’t mention it.

    2. Avatar Dan says:

      Yes, when they launched VoLTE several years ago, they rolled it out only on band 20 (they should probably stop referring to that as their ‘new’ Super-Voice signal). The announcement is that they have now rolled it out on their other 4G frequencies as well.

  2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    Just when the number of good 4G Routers supporting VoLTE, (often simply firmware settings rather than the hardware), are becoming increasingly difficult to find. A phone SIM in a router is often cheaper and better than VoIP.

    1. Avatar Roger_Gooner says:

      I read a while ago that some people had been successful with the Tenda 4G680 V2 4g router. If you are in, say, a home office you might want to make and receive calls with your landline phone rather than a mobile phone.

  3. Avatar Stuart says:

    Do they still lock VoLTE (and wifi calling) to a very limited range of handsets?

    1. Avatar Anonymous says:

      As long as the phone supports VoLTE/WiFi Calling then this now works. You no longer need specific firmware from Three to use this.

    2. Avatar Michael V says:

      @Stuart, all of their phones on their website support VoLTE & VoWiFi

  4. Avatar EndlessWaves says:

    Now if only they’d complete the 4G rollout to all of their masts.

    1. Avatar Dan says:

      How many of their masts don’t have 4G?

    2. Avatar EndlessWaves says:

      I don’t have the national figure Dan, but I know Three’s local mast is only 3G.

      ‘Local’ in this instance being ~11 miles outside the biggest city in East Anglia, so while it’s not a densely populated area, the logistical challenges are also likely minimal. Rival networks using the same structure (a local water tower) have upgraded their equipment to 4G.

      I do find it amusing Three have chosen to send texts advertising 5G services to me over a 3G connection.

  5. Avatar Bizzy says:

    Been having problems on iPhone 8 with ‘3’ where on some calls people can’t hear me but I could hear them. Would have to hang up and attempt two sometimes three times before it would work. Took the phone to Apple where they ran some diagnostics, phone all ok but they did see in the history three dropped calls during the week. I was told they believe its a fault when VoLTE is switched on, so recommended I turn it off. So far so good call wise but curious to know if anyone else had these issues with an Apple phone.

    1. Avatar ? says:

      I had the exact same problem with my 8 plus upgraded to iPhone 11 the dropped call/people couldn’t hear me went now with ee and its a miles better network !

  6. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I can confirm that 800mhz is included for 4G calling as it was originally the only band supported for VoLTE. All bands used for 4G will work for VoLTE which are 800mhz/1800mhz & 2100mhz, this service has been live for nearly a month but was not shared to the media until Q3 results was announced.

  7. Avatar Michael V says:

    There wasn’t really a need to mention the 800mhz band!
    I’ve noticed VoLTE everywhere I go, more good improvements from them.
    It’ll put less demand on our phones batteries not having to be forced back to 3G, especially for those who make a lot of calls.
    I have 4G over 1800mhz most places I go with 800mhz showing up at times. Could easily set the phone to LTE only!

    1. Avatar Carl says:

      I was three for many years. Might look at ID mobile but I’ve been with Vodafone the last 11 months and has been so much more reliable than three was. If I get a rentioned deal for around £14 a month il stay put but is three a lot better than it use to be?

    2. Avatar Mr David Finch says:

      Facebook is very busy with customer complaints on 3s page. I’ve also moved to voda and found a night and day difference.

    3. Avatar Michael V says:

      I live just outside Cardiff in South Wales & have seen it improve quite a bit, in my village & where I travel. Speeds have improved. When traveling to mid [west] Wales I see signal almost all of the time.
      So to answer your question, yes they have.
      Also with backhaul being upgraded for 5G, 4G will see the benefits.

  8. Avatar George says:

    I’d been looking forward to this for a long time. But I found VoLTE was hit and miss – sometimes dropouts so bad that conversation was impossible – and WiFi calling was more often unusable than not. The latter not really being attributable to my network, as other VOIP apps seemed fine. In the end I’ve switched provider as just too often my phone would choose an unreliable 4G signal, which is a shame as I’m not even a heavy user of minutes and the data plans and speeds are very good. Ask this could be just the dodgy Moto 8 hardware I have, time may yet tell once O2 payg gets VoLTE as well.

  9. Avatar Mike says:

    Three years behind EE…

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