VoLTE, or voice over LTE (LTE is the technical name for 4G), is the next evolution of mobile calling that uses the 4G network for traditional voice calls. For the past decade, voice calls have been primarily carried out over the 3G network. In order to make calls over 4G, you need to have a VoLTE capable mobile phone. While you may have a 4G capable phone, your device may still fall back to 3G when you make or receive a call unless it's also capable of VoLTE.
Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) and 4G-only mobile coverage
The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG), a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees is building more than 400 mobile towers to provide fixed wireless home broadband connectivity in rural areas. This is part of the second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2). With this comes new 4G-only mobile coverage in these areas which customers can use whilst on the go.
Because the purpose of this fund is predominantly to connect rural addresses that previously had no internet at home, most of this new coverage is 4G-only. This allows customers to get set up with wireless broadband. 3G is unavailable in many of these areas, which means that since voice calls have historically worked over the 3G network, some mobile phones will not be able to make traditional voice calls whilst connected to the new RCG towers. Most 4G capable phones however, can use data and SMS in these areas and will have service bars at the top of the screen, so apps such as WhatsApp and Skype can be used to make calls over data. 3G only phones will not be able to use this new coverage.
Some RCG sites do provide 3G coverage - these are usually on main highways or accident blackspots to provide mobile coverage for safety purposes.
Spark VoLTE capable phones
Over recent years, mobile network operators (MNOs) have been working with manufacturers to enable VoLTE on as many mobile devices as possible, including existing models, for use on New Zealand's 4G mobile networks. For each MNO, this process involves working with manufacturers of each type of device to test VoLTE on their network before it can be enabled for the customer.
Spark VoLTE roaming capable phones
Worldwide, our roaming carrier partners are starting to retire their 3G and 2G networks to free up frequencies and network resources for their 4G and 5G networks.
To ensure customers can continue to make and receive calls when roaming, Spark is working with manufacturers to enable VoLTE roaming on most commonly used mobile phone models, and with its roaming carriers to launch VoLTE roaming on their networks.
VoLTE roaming is very similar to VoLTE calling within NZ, however there are some restrictions around mobile devices.
To find out if your device is VoLTE roaming capable, please see ‘Is my device VoLTE roaming capable?’ This is located in the FAQ section below.
Frequently asked questions
Here’s a bit of information to help you understand the ins and outs of VoLTE calling, and what it means for you.