Until recently, all mobile voice calls in New Zealand have been made using 2G or 3G technology, with 4G (and now 5G) reserved for mobile data services.
Over the past few years, mobile providers have introduced 4G coverage for voice calls as well. This is otherwise known as VoLTE – which stands for Voice over Long Term Evolution (with LTE being the technical term for 4G). So, VoLTE essentially means ‘voice over 4G’ and is similar to ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP).
In most urban areas, 4G calling works alongside 3G – if your phone is capable of a 4G voice calling, it will likely use that technology, otherwise it will use 3G instead.
However, across parts of rural New Zealand, many new cell sites being built by the Rural Connectivity Group only have 4G coverage. This means some mobile phones will not be able to make calls whilst connected to the new RCG sites despite seeing coverage bars. Although data and text will work on any 4G capable phone, and calls using data-based apps like WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype etc. will still work, a VoLTE capable phone is required to make calls through your mobile provider.
How to check if a device is connected to VoLTE
If you live in or plan to travel to a rural area, you should check if your phone is capable of making a voice call on 4G (VoLTE capable), has the correct software installed and that VoLTE services are enabled.
Instructions on how to do this can be found at the websites of the mobile operators: