From the den
I am sitting here, in the uncharted backwaters of the galaxy, a fraction of a megaparsec away from Frankfurt city centre. On my desk, a dual SIM phone with two EE Sims inside. Unfortunately taking or making calls from them to any number in the UK would cost me (in spite of the recent EU rulings on roaming) an arm and a leg. Now, this may change, if the plans to use WiFi instead of the GSM based mobile voice line to improve call quality in areas with a bit of magic: EE has announced to enable mobile calls via WiFi, where a local network is not avialable or flaky. There is hope, that they will ignore the GPS, and thus make a nice EE network connection possible from the front porch of the farm in the middle of nowhere on the continent. If only they would!
Other than the femtocells offering services similar to what EE is hinting at (The only way to get these things to work is actually being in a place where the network should be available but for reasons of walls, steel and concrete or reflections, isn’t and they simply rely on GPS data – making it virtually impossible to extend, say, an AT&T network to my front porch), the decision allows for three intriguing benefits for the customers: High quality voice calls are made possible in areas where cellular reception is of questionable quality, Users are available for calls and texts on the same numbers they always use, and the usual dialer and messaging apps can be used for a seamless and comfortable experience.
Letting my mind wander, I stumble over the crucial question: How does EE determine a situation requiring a hand-over? As it is convenient, the other phone on my desk is, of course, running the MyEE app. Now how would EE be able to get the hand-over done correctly? MOst probably, the MyEE app would need to inform the carrier about the network getting unavailable and the location data would be necessary bot for quality improvement and for handover. Having been privy to the immense provisioning efforts the handover in pumping 3G-cells caused the carrier, it is obvious to me this is not a small task and checking on the location via an app that has been installed by many of the users that actually are responsible for the 900 million calls which are routed via the lines of EE every week. So the network planning department could use info from MyEE to optimize the network topology (maybe even taking care of congestion in cases of too many users deteriorating the average QoS). Information about available WiFI networks per location is also essential, otherwise any automatic handover is impossible. VoLTE, using a different spectrum may also pose a solution but is not necessarily the bees knees in those cases, where network coverage is missing. The use-case is relatively clear, and the step EE is going, bold.
Sources: http://www.mobilenewscwp.co.uk/2014/06/20/ee-to-introduce-calls-over-wi-fi-this-autumn Foto: pixelio.de/Rainer Sturm