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Vodafone UK Finally Starts to Add SMS Support to WiFi Calling

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021 (9:23 am) - Score 19,200

It’s been a long.. time coming, but Vodafone has now confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that they’ve finally started to add the ability to send and receive text (SMS) messages via Wi-Fi Calling, which is important news for those who no longer have the option of using a femtocell based Sure Signal (3G) router. Just O2 left to go.

The Sure Signal (v3) is a small device that plugs into a fixed line broadband ISP network (minimum speed required of 1Mbps), which enables it to harness your home internet connection to boost an indoor 3G mobile signal using the 2100MHz band. Such devices have been useful for people who live in locations with either a weak indoor mobile signal or no signal at all, but sadly Vodafone stopped selling them on 30th April 2020.

Instead, the operator has been busy promoting the use of Wi-Fi Calling (VoWiFi), which has been available for several years and enables consumers with a supporting Smartphone to harness their home WiFi connection in order to make mobile voice calls.

The catch is that, until now, Vodafone hasn’t been able to add SMS support to Wi-Fi Calling like EE and Three UK – despite promising it since 2018, which created a problem for those whose main alternative would have been the retired Sure Signal kit. We raised this issue last year (here) and the operator informed us that they aimed to add support by the end of 2020. In fairness, it’s a complex feature to implement and requires a lot of testing.

However, over the past couple of weeks, we have begun to receive reports of SMS starting to work via Vodafone’s Wi-Fi Calling feature, most particularly following the recent iOS v14.3 update to Apple’s modern iPhones. Some Android phones running v11 of the operating system have also reported success and the operator has now confirmed this.

A Spokesperson for Vodafone told ISPreview.co.uk:

“I can confirm, we do now support SMS over Wi-Fi. Since December, it has been enabled on Apple devices supporting iOS 14 (iPhone 6S and above), on Google Pixel 3 (and above), and is being delivered to Samsung devices supporting Android 11 (with the feature being added as part of the Android update).

We will be working with other manufacturers to bring the feature to additional devices where support is available as we proceed through the year.”

The news makes for a welcome start to 2021 as many services use SMS as part of two-factor authentication (e.g. banks, Vodafone’s own account system etc.) and a lot of those don’t work with alternatives like WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage (many people still don’t use those platforms in general). Obviously, it will still take time to reach more devices, but this is still a good start.

Meanwhile Vodafone has begun informing Sure Signal customers that they’ll be “retiring Sure Signal from our network throughout 2021 and will switch the service off completely in September 2021” (here). We believe this will occur in phases (customers will be given 60 days’ notice), with some devices being disabled as soon as next month. “This means you won’t be able to use Sure Signal anymore, or register a device to use it,” said Vodafone.

Now spare a thought for those on O2, which is now the only primary mobile operator lacking SMS support via Wi-Fi Calling.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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37 Responses
  1. Andy says:

    What is Vodafone doing that makes it require the latest version of IOS or Android? Three and EE haven’t needed this to get it to work. I thought that the carrier updates on both of the platforms added features like this to the phones.

    1. 5G_Infinity says:

      That would be typical in my experience, EE’s Signal Box doesn’t require device registration, so your friends who have EE can also use it, unlike VF which registers the devices.

    2. Miriam vickers says:

      Finally I have been allowed to comment. Problems with SMS,and,what’s app due to poor connectivity around Victorian tenements. Slightly better but far from certain near mobile anchor.

    3. Leex says:

      It’s very typical of Vodafone to not support older iphones or nearly any android version or phone that isn’t sold by them (my razer phone 2 is registered on Vodafone network for VoLTE but network is blocking it when a call starts it drops to 3g)

      Govement needs to start forcing ims 4g settings to work on any phone and blacklist problem Phones instead of blocking all phones by default (o2 and Vodafone only whitelist phones if it’s not on there list they block it)

      Ee any phone made by even China companies has ee ims VoLTE settings

      3 does as well but still mostly only works on 4g800 witch I wish I could block on my phone as 3uk 4g800 is like using 2g once you used about 200MB of data you get traffic shaped (as I am in the top 5% on that band) , I prefer to just have no signal (as at least it try and stay in 4g1500 or 2100)

  2. Scott says:

    Spare a thought for 02 customers? You’ll need more than that, since when has o2 ever put it’s customers first. It’s always the last to deploy anything.

  3. Rajeev J says:

    Not sure it’s worth it nowadays with Google’s RCS taking over and doing a better job.


    1. Mark Jackson says:

      You still need both sides to support that, while SMS is a globally very well established service. RCS could be handy, but adoption needs to improve first.

    2. André says:

      Owned by the world’s greatest data slurper?
      Not touching it with a barge pole.

    3. Sam says:

      I have an iPhone… Therefore this is useless

    4. George says:

      @André Not a problem when you have a big data allowance 🙂

    5. Simon Stroud says:

      RCS really is set to become the universal messaging future. It’s a shame that Apple are deliberately pushing iPhone owners to fallback to SMS/MMS and are getting left behind. Nobody cares about their insular iMessage.

  4. Mike says:

    A better solution than the SureSignal boxes, which liked to catch fire!

    1. Sam says:

      Yep mine melted! I had a V2 and then V3 that melted

  5. Sam says:

    About bloody time only been waiting 4 years

  6. Kris says:

    Still doesn’t work on prepaid sims. When 3G base-layer is switched off, the networks will need to implement VOLTE and presumably Wifi calling. Otherwise prepaid customer won’t be able to make calls. Is there any networks adding these features?

    1. Ryan says:

      I Wouldn’t too much it’s more likely UK network will decommission thier 3G network before 2G so even if you didn’t have volte call would still fallback to 2G.

    2. tinker says:

      Adding what – VOLTE and WiFi calling on prepaid sims? Yes there is a network that’s done this – Three. Smarty (which is owned by and runs on Three) has done it too.

  7. A M says:

    Lets wait another 4 years for PAYG prepaid sims to support it!
    Or we can switch to Three UK where they support it already.

  8. Mike says:

    Also works on my Huawei P40 Pro+ with Android 10 and EMUI 11.

  9. Kris says:

    Ah thanks. I didn’t realise Three had done it.
    It’s good to know it’s possible with the right hardware on the network side.

  10. Junior says:

    Thanks Mark, great article. Could you try and find out when o2 will enable SMS over WiFi for their customers please?

  11. Guy Cashmore says:

    To be fair to O2, they are still selling and supporting their ‘Boostbox’ which is an excellent device. Ours (which was free) has been totally reliable for 5 years, has really good range and even worked perfectly on a 4G internet connection from another mobile provider.

  12. Dan says:

    I wonder when Vodafone OneNet will actually support VoWifi & VoLTE?

    1. James McPhee says:

      OneNet is supported for volte and WiFi calling now but you need to speak to customer services to enable

  13. Imran says:

    It can use anywhere in the world or the Just UK

  14. Charles Smith says:

    I guess an alternate approach might be to provide a proper level of 3G/4G signal across the whole country.

  15. Steve Cornish says:

    The biggest problem with Vodafone’s over-WIFI services is that they only work with devices they’ve sold, citing firmware concerns. As a SIMO contact customer when they retired my Sure Signal last year this was a huge problem for me. I moved to EE who don’t have the same ridiculous restrictions – WIFI calling worked immediately, no firmware updates required.

    1. Leex says:

      If you had WiFi calling VoLTE 4g calling also probably started working as well (if its samsung phone it should have the 4g ims built in)

    2. ToneDeaf says:

      I’m a Vodafone SIMO customer and have both VoLTE and VoWiFi operational on my unlocked Xiaomi handset.
      I was able to switch-on VoWiFi via the Vodafone app.

  16. Nokia 8 Android 9 Pie works with SMS over WiFi says:

    Nokia 8 running Android 9 Pie also works and can receive SMS messages over WiFi.

  17. Michael V says:

    Unfortunately Vodafone give priority to contract users.
    Prepay accounts get left behind. Still no VoLTE or VoWiFi. 5G is available on their £30 & over bundles, but as mentioned no SMS over WiFi.

    Also, My employer uses Vodafone for our work phones. For VoLTE & VoWiFi they want an extra £7 per handset. With working from home its difficult as indoor signal is so poor.

    They are just too high maintenance.

  18. Jack says:

    When is this happening? Using a Vodafone contract eSIM in an iPhoneXR alongside a Three PAYG physical SIM and cannot send/receive SMS over WiFi with Vodafone as of now but the Three SIM I can. Confusing or what!

  19. Peter Bustin says:

    Sure signal stopped working end Dec 2020 then sms started working early January over WiFi for a couple of days then stopped again. Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9. Vodafone seem to have made a decision to not support slightly older phones to force upgrades. I live in Wales in a not area so can’t even log onto Vodafone as can’t receive texts.

  20. PobPob says:

    “…started to add the ability to use SMS..” What does that mean? There is a slow moving bloke pressing a few buttons in an exchange enabling 15 numbers a day? Or Vodafone are switching it on today?

  21. Allan says:

    This is precisely the reason I left o2 for three. They are both by far the best signal providers in my rural area. When o2 had a mast daily for over a WEEK I couldn’t access my bank account without driving 10 mins to the signal of another mast! As for EE, they do support it but their signal is woeful in much of my county. Don’t know anyone who uses them. I have full 4g on three and o2. One bar of 2g if you’re lucky on EE and Vodafone.

  22. ian says:

    as of this morning (8/4/21) three chat confirmed they don’t have an incoming text facility on wifi calling

  23. Helen says:

    I have onenet account and vodafone told me about six weeks ago that cannot have that and wifi calling

    been cut off twice today trying to get some help

    Is there anyway to sort this as area of poor reception and had been using a suresignal

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