What is WiFi calling and is it worth using?

We’ve all been there — you’re on a call that suddenly drops out because you’ve just hit a mobile blackspot. Sometimes we might have parts of our home where the mobile signal is weak or just non-existent, and there are certainly parts of the country where network signals are very faint. Mobile networks are fairly widespread and reliable these days, but no network is immune to blackspots and poor reception.

For these instances, having access to WiFi calling can really make a difference. It’s a feature that has been around for a while, however not all phones — and indeed, not all telcos — support WiFi calling.

So, what exactly is WiFi calling and how does it work? Read on to find out all you need to know about this useful feature and whether you should start using it.

What is WiFi calling?

At its absolute basic, WiFi calling is what it sounds like — when a mobile phone (or other device) can make calls via a WiFi connection, such as your home internet. This is useful if you’re in an area, such as your home, where mobile reception is a bit patchy or weak, but you have access to a WiFi network. Keep in mind that WiFi calling is different to video calling, such as Apple’s FaceTime, and only audio is supported, not video.

To access this feature, you’ll need an eligible device, such as a smartphone, an eligible telco and of course, a WiFi network that your device is connected to — and with a good signal. After all, you don’t want your call to cut out because your WiFi connection is weak.

WiFi calling is also free of charge to use, excluding the cost of the internet being used for the WiFi connection, such as your home internet bill. This means you won’t get an additional charge from your telco for using the service, minus any costs that you are usually charged for regular calls (if you don’t have unlimited calls on your plan).

Is WiFi calling the same as VoLTE calling?

WiFi calling and calling with VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution) are two different things. While WiFi calling uses a WiFi network to make calls, VoLTE allows you to call over a 4G network, which does require access to a mobile network.

Accessing VoLTE calling may also be limited by device and telco, and in some instances, having VoLTE calling enabled may be required to enable WiFi calling. While the two are separate services, having VoLTE enabled on your device might also automatically enable WiFi calling on your device, or visa versa.

Like WiFi calling, using VoLTE for calls is usually a free service and not charged additionally on your phone bill, and it might not even count as part of your mobile data usage. If you have unlimited standard national calls on your phone plan, you likely won’t need to worry about being charged. However, it’s worth checking this directly with your telco if you’re concerned about additional costs.

Pros and cons of WiFi calling

WiFi calling can be really useful, but there can be some disadvantages, as it’s by no means a perfect solution. Here are some of the pros and cons of using WiFi calling.

Pros:

  • Useful in mobile blackspots or areas with weak mobile signal as long as you have a strong WiFi connection
  • Might be a more reliable connection in the home, as WiFi modem/router signal will most likely be closer and some parts of your house could have patchy network coverage
  • No need to download apps to access the function (just enabling the feature may be enough)
  • Telcos do not typically charge for this service (beyond any standard call, SMS or MMS costs on your plan)

Cons:

  • Calls may be patchy or poor quality if WiFi signal is weak, or if using a network with lots of other devices connected, such as public WiFi networks
  • Not all devices support the feature
  • Feature is only offered by some telcos
  • Using WiFi calling will count towards your internet usage (if using your home internet to make calls), so if you have limited data, you’ll need to monitor usage

How to set up WiFi calling

Setting up WiFi calling on your phone will depend on what device you have. Android devices and iPhones will have different ways of setting up this feature. Also, because not all devices support WiFi calling, you might not even find the feature available to you on your phone.

For iPhone users:

If you’re an iPhone user, to access WiFi calling, you simply need to go to Settings > Phone > WiFi calling, and turn this feature on if it isn’t already.

For Android users:

For Android users, turning on WiFi calling may differ between devices. If you have a Google Pixel, you’ll need to go to your Phone app > More ⋮ > Settings > Calls > WiFi calling and enable it — if the feature isn’t there, it’s likely because your device doesn’t support it.

Other Android users may find the feature by going to your Settings app, finding a section such as ‘Network’ or ‘Network and Internet’, which could lead you to a section for ‘Calls and SMS’ or ‘Mobile Network’, then it could appear in that menu or under more advanced settings. Another option is under Settings, then find a ‘WiFi’ menu, and it could be in that section or under advanced settings. Because this varies between devices, if your settings has a search function, you might need to use that and search ‘WiFi calling’ to find where the feature is kept. If you still can’t find a WiFi calling option, it’s possible that your device doesn’t have the feature available.

Man patting dog while making phone call

Telstra WiFi calling

Telstra offers WiFi calling to a range of compatible devices, including smartphones, tablets and smartwatches. If your device and plan is compatible, all you’ll need to do is make sure the feature is switched on. Currently, Telstra lists the following devices as WiFi calling compatible:

Telstra Wifi compatible devices

  • Apple iPhones from iPhone 6 and onwards
  • Apple Watch 3 and onwards
  • Samsung Galaxy S devices from S7 and onwards, and Note 5 and onwards
  • Google Pixel 2 devices and onwards
  • LG devices G6 and onwards

WiFi calling is available to Telstra mobile customers with postpaid and prepaid plans, along with customers of Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Boost Mobile (although it is not available to Belong customers, which is a Telstra subsidiary).

You can also use WiFi calling with your Telstra plan when you’re overseas, however you can only use it to call numbers in Australia.

Telstra also offers WiFi SMS, which allows you to send SMS over a WiFi network. Like WiFi calling, it’s handy for moments when you’re in an area with weak or no mobile reception, but easy access to WiFi. As this technology is still in the roll out phase, not all devices will be compatible.

The following table shows a selection of published Telstra postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

The following table shows a selection of published Boost Mobile prepaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Optus WiFi Calling

Optus offers WiFi calling to customers across a wide range of devices — including a wider range of Android brands than Telstra offers. In addition, Optus supports WiFi calling on a small selection of non-smartphone devices. You may be required to have purchased your device from Optus, and for it to be bundled with an Optus postpaid phone plan. The current list of WiFi calling compatible devices from Optus includes:

Optus Wifi compatible devices

  • iPhone SE, iPhone 6 and onwards
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 and onwards, Note 5 and onwards, plus a range of A series, Flip and Fold devices, along with a range of Galaxy Tab and other devices
  • Google Pixel 3 and onwards
  • OPPO Find X2 Lite, Find X3 Pro and Find X3 Lite, R11s and R15 Pro, Reno Z and Reno 5G, A53s and A54, plus the OPPO Compass Pro
  • Other devices from Android brands include the LG G5, Realme C3 and C21, Motorola Moto G8 Power Lite, Optus X Delight, Optus X Tap and more

If you’ve got a compatible Android device, Optus states that you need to have the latest Optus firmware installed.

In order to use WiFi calling from Optus, you’ll need to activate VoLTE on your device which will apply WiFi calling to your device. Once you’ve checked if VoLTE is enabled, you can then look to switch on WiFi calling.

Optus will not charge any additional charges for WiFi calling, along with WiFi SMS and MMS, as this is treated the same as regular call, SMS and MMS services in your plan. Any mobile data used to connect the call will not count towards your data usage. It’s also worth noting that Optus doesn’t allow for using WiFi calling when overseas.

For customers using an MVNO on the Optus network, WiFi and VoLTE calling has been enabled for Optus’s wholesale partners which offer postpaid phone plans (prepaid MVNOs are currently not supported). This means that if you have or are looking at a phone plan with providers such as Moose Mobile, Southern Phone, Dodo and Vaya, and you have a compatible device, WiFi calling might be available to you. You’ll likely need to take the same steps to enable WiFi (and VoLTE) calling on your device, however, you might also want to check with your telco if they support the feature or for any additional steps you might need to take.

The following table shows a selection of published Optus postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers.

The following table shows a selection of postpaid plans from providers using the Optus network, as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Vodafone WiFi calling

Vodafone also offers WiFi calling to customers, and like Optus, has a wide range of compatible smartphones supporting the feature, including other devices such as smart watches and tablets. Not only will Vodafone WiFi calling be supported if you buy your device from Vodafone, but it may also be available if you have a compatible iPhone purchased from a third party retailer and have a SIM-only prepaid or postpaid plan with Vodafone, However, Android devices purchased from third party retailers may not support the feature. Here are a range of devices from Vodafone that support WiFi calling:

Vodafone Wifi compatible devices

  • iPhone SE (both older and 2020 models), iPhone 6 and onwards
  • Apple Watch SE, Watch 3 and upwards
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 and onwards, Note 5 and onwards, Galaxy Fold and onwards, Galaxy Flip and onwards, Galaxy J2 and J5 Pro, along with a range of A series phones
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab devices including A series and S4 and onwards
  • Google Pixel 3 and onwards
  • OPPO Find X2 Lite, Reno Z, R15 Pro, R17 Pro, A16s, A91 and AX5
  • Other Android devices include the TCL 20 Pro 5G and 20 R 5G, Motorola devices including the Moto Edge 20 Fusion and Moto g50, Vodafone Smart E9, Vodafone Smart N10 and a range of devices from Alcatel, HTC, Huawei, LG and Nokia

In order to enable Vodafone WiFi calling with your compatible device, Vodafone recommends you update your device software, enable VoLTE and then activate WiFi calling. Using WiFi calling or sending SMS or MMS via WiFi with Vodafone won’t cost you anything extra, as postpaid and prepaid customers are charged the same standard rates for calls and SMS/MMS as on your plan (and if your plan has unlimited calls, SMS and MMS, you won’t need to worry about being charged for these services).

Vodafone does not allow you to use its WiFi calling services when overseas. In addition, Vodafone currently does not offer its WiFi calling to MVNOs using the Vodafone network.

The following table shows a selection of published Vodafone postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Should I start using WiFi calling?

If you’re with any of the above mentioned telcos, and you have a compatible device, using WiFi calling may be useful in certain situations. In areas with mobile blackspots, but a reliable internet connection, it may be a good solution to keep you connected.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone also state that WiFi calling can be used to call emergency numbers, so in critical situations it can also be a lifesaver.

Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt to have the feature enabled on your device ‘just in case’. Considering the telcos typically won’t charge you any extra for using the service, it doesn’t hurt to have it as a complementary service to standard calls.

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