Spoiler alert: Before I even get started with the “how-to” part of this article, let us not get our hopes too high.
By now you should be familiar with JTL’s Faiba 4G, the new mobile network that promises the fastest internet connection in Kenya. However, there’s one thing that still remains elusive to many – VoLTE. This morning, as I was going through some of the numerous WhatsApp groups on my phone, most of which I even don’t know how I ended up there, I came across a message with some instructions of how to check if devices support VoLTE. While I didn’t have any problem with the instructions, how the original poster introduced Faiba 4G into the picture is what I think is misleading and I thought I should weigh in before people get too excited.
Here is the original post on WhatsApp:
Faiba4G SIM cards will ONLY work with phones that support VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution). VoLTE allows you to make HD phone calls making the audio quality better and clearer than your normal call. So many people have phones that support 4G and will rush to get the Faiba4G SIM cards but it won’t work because their phones don’t support VoLTE. Having a 4G phone is not enough. In order for you to enjoy the Faiba4G SIM Card, your phone must be VoLTE enabled.
One short way to find whether your current phone supports VoLTE or not, is to try this:
1. Open your phone’s dialer and type in ##4636##. (Please note that this code may differ from phone to phone)
2. You should now see a number of options in this list. Click on the Phone information menu to progress.
3. Scroll down and check if there is an option for turning VoLTE on or off. If you see this option, your phone supports VoLTE.
The other way to check if your phone is VoLTE enabled, you’ll have to download and install VoLTE Checker App from Google Marketplace. After installing the app, open it and turn on your data connection. It will start checking and after checking, it’ll display the results whether or not your phone supports VoLTE.
VoLTE is a relatively new term in the Kenyan smartphone market and clearly, Faiba 4G is here to win the mobile network’s war with this feature. If you have had any interest in the new network, you must already be aware of the minimum requirements of joining JTL’s carrier.
One of the requirements of using Faiba 4G is that your phone has to support the lowest cellular frequency on the market – 700MHz – which works on Band 28 (it’s not the lowest cellular frequency in the world). It is through this band, which is meant to cover the widest area possible, that JTL wants you to enjoy VoLTE. Just to give you a heads up, LTE, also known as Long-Term Evolution in telecommunication, is a fancy name for the fastest wireless network on the market right now and VoLTE means voice (calls) over “the fastest wireless network on the market.” This, in essence, means you forget about making calls using airtime, which is a pretty cool idea, if you ask me.
Having these two features is the key to getting the most out of Faiba 4G. Unfortunately, there are not so many phones on the market that support band 28 (700MHz), but there are for sure a good number of them that support VoLTE. Interestingly, it’s also possible to bump into a phone with band 28 but has no VoLTE support. Fortunately, this is a feature that OEMs can bring to such devices via software updates. With all this in mind, you might be disappointed that your phone supports VoLTE but still has no room for Faiba 4G.
On the brighter side, it’s possible that you might be using a compatible device, only that the manufacturer has disabled the VoLTE feature by default. Yes, there are a good number of devices out there that come with support for VoLTE but the feature is disabled out of the box. As I was doing some random fishing, I bumped into a nifty little trick that can be used to check if your device supports VoLTE and if the feature is enabled or disabled.
I would have easily titled this article “How to enable VoLTE support on your Android phone”, but I chose otherwise for a reason. This trick doesn’t actually “enable” VoLTE, what it does is let you switch it on, just in case it wasn’t. The trick gives you access to a settings menu from where you can find out if your phone supports the feature or not. So, if your phone doesn’t come with support for VoLTE out of the box, there won’t be options to turn it on and off via the said settings menu.
Another thing about VoLTE support is the processors. Not all smartphone processors come with support for this feature. There’s a good number of Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets, all the way from Snapdragon 210 to the high-end Snapdragon 800 series, that are supported and a handful of MediaTek chipsets as well, including the lowly MT6737, MT6750T, and MT6753. Samsung’s own Exynos lineup also boasts an extensive list of supported chipsets.
Once again, your Android phone might be compatible with VoLTE thanks the chipset on board, but if it doesn’t support the 700MHz frequency, you won’t be able to enjoy Faiba 4G’s voice calling services. This, in fact, is the deal breaker, at least for now. The major advantage of the 700MHz frequency, however, is that it allows for wider coverage, something that should help the telco compete with Safaricom, which is currently on 800MHz frequency. The idea here is that the lower the cellular frequency, the wider the coverage and with a higher frequency, the area covered is smaller, but it can accommodate more people.
Having said all this, it’s about time I gave you the code – *#*#4636#*#*. Notice that this code is different from theone in the OP, not becuase it was initially wrong, but I also noticed that when written the way it is in WhatsApp, the app auto-formats it to bold when you hit the send button, thus leaving behind some characters. When dialed, this code will open a “Testing” menu where you need to tap the “Phone Information” option to open, well, the phone’s info. From here, you should see two or more options with toggles. Enable the “VoLTE Provisioned” option. In one of the devices I tested, which is powered by a Snapdragon processor, there were more options: Video Calling Provisioned and Wi-Fi Calling Provisioned. As the names suggest, these features mean that the device supports ViLTE (Video over LTE) and making calls over Wi-Fi, something that would be cool to have on either Faiba 4G or even Safaricom thanks to their home internet services.
When done, go back to your phone’s settings and under wireless & networks settings, tap on More>Cellular networks>Enhanced 4G LTE Mode and toggle it on. You may also want to keep the “Preferred network type” to 4G LTE, if it’s not already. When done, restart your phone to apply the changes and that’s it!
Note that this is a non-official, internet-sourced trick that I have tried and tested on two Android devices. It happens that both come with support for VoLTE, but the feature had been disabled by default. So I enabled it, but unfortunately, there is still no band 700MHz, which means Faiba 4G VoLTE services aren’t meant for me. It would only benefit me if the likes of Safaricom and Airtel started offering VoLTE, which God knows when.
Apparently, for this code to work, your phone must be installed with Android Lollipop and above. The two devices I tested have Android 7.1.1 Nougat and Android 7.0 Nougat, so I didn’t have any problems. One person using a Samsung Galaxy J2 with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, however, was unable to go through with the process. The J2 uses an Exynos 3475 and even though it supports LTE, only on frequencies 800 and 900.
Also, make sure you use the original Phone Dialer app to dial the code and not a third-party version. Keep in mind that the code won’t work for all Android Lollipop and above devices, but I’ve checked with a good number of users and it seems to be working perfectly. As opposed to what the message spreading on WhatsApp intends to portray, the most basic requirement to using Faiba 4G is a phone that supports band 28 on a 700MHz frequency. This code only lets you turn the feature on, but in other cases, the OEM must roll out an update to enable the feature.
Make no mistake. Unlike Safaricom that supports multiple bands – band 3 (1800MHz) and band 20 (800MHz) – Faiba 4G will only work on devices that strictly support band 28 (700MHz). I’ve met guys who thought band 28 was only limited to the VoLTE feature and not the general data-browsing, but Faiba support says otherwise. So, if your device supports band 700MHz, lucky you. But for the rest of us, this trick might not be what we expected. Sorry guys!
Thanks Nathan and Matubia!