EE customers without signal can now have calls routed and texts sent over wifi as the provider has this week launched a new service in a bid to combat mobile users losing signal in their own homes.
The service automatically detects and uses a wifi connection to make and receive calls and texts, but this will be deducted from your allowance as normal – it will not come out of your data allowance.
It's currently only available on the Microsoft Lumia 640, iPhone 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus and the Samsung S6 and S6 Edge, which launch today, but EE is hoping to extend the scheme in future. To use it you need to enable wifi calling in your phone's settings.
The provider says the service mainly targets customers who lose signal in their homes, but it can also be used out and about – as long as you're connected to wifi.
Along with Vodafone, Three and O2, EE adds that it is also trying to improve traditional coverage in rural areas. See our Cheap Mobiles guide to get the best deal if you're thinking of getting a new handset.
Industry regulator Ofcom's research shows a growing trend in the use of such services, which are sometimes called Voice over IP (VoIP).
Its latest report found that 35% of adults surveyed in 2014 made internet calls from their mobile using apps such as Skype or Facetime, compared to 28% the year before and 22% in 2012. It adds that "it's likely to become increasingly important over time".
Do other mobile providers do this?
EE says it's the first network to launch integrated wifi calling, but many of the other big telecoms providers already offer a similar service using apps.
Virgin, Three and O2 all have their own wifi calling apps, with the latter two also able to send texts over wifi. Vodafone is set to launch its version this summer.
With O2 and Three's apps, which are available on Android and iPhones, the calls and texts used come out of your monthly allowance, or your credit if you are on Three's pay-as-you-go (it's not available on O2 pay-as-you-go).
Virgin's Smartcall app on the other hand, which is also available on both iPhones and Androids, can be used by any Virgin Media landline customer (regardless of which firm their mobile contract is with) to call any number that is allowed within your Virgin Phone talk plan.
Some of these do not include mobiles but Virgin says you will only be able to place a call if there's no extra charge, plus unlike the other apps, the calls come out of your landline allowance rather than your mobile allowance.
Vodafone says it is unable to release any more details about its wifi calling launch, but it looks set to follow in the footsteps of EE as you won't have to download a separate app to use it.
I'm cancelling my contract due to lack of signal. Will I be prevented from doing so as wifi calls are available?
There isn't a standard policy for being able to cancel contracts due to lack of signal, although most providers give customers a 14-day cooling off period in which to change their mind.
The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 also states that you should get a "reasonable" service from your contract.
The problem comes in defining what is reasonable, so we asked the major providers whether or not their wifi calling service would change their customers' rights.
Three, Virgin and EE confirmed that customers could still cancel their contracts if they don't get signal, regardless of whether or not they had access to free calls and texts over wifi. We're still waiting to hear from O2, but we will add this story as soon as we get a response.
As with any product bought online or over the phone you have 14 days to cancel and get a refund, so it's buy this way rather than in-store as then you have 14 days to test the signal.