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AT&T is definitely shutting down its 3G network, starting in 2022. They've already informed their business customers. If AT&T's customer service rep says otherwise, then he's lying.​
I think the service rep meant that 3G is not being shut down right now, so that isn't the cause of my problems. I've been a bit suspicious of what the '4G' being reported on the phone meant, and it turns out it is really just 3G. In any case, a new phone won't solve the signal problem.
 


In the 2G and 3G world, there are two distinct networks: a voice network (which I believe includes SMS texts, but I'm not 100% certain of that) and a data network (which mostly carries IP traffic). The two networks don't interact with each other much.
It was my understanding that SMS text runs on the guard frequencies used to provide handshaking between the cell phone and the cell tower or some other control traffic. It is the limited bandwidth of these frequencies that limits how many characters one can have in a single text message.

A technical magazine that I was reading about the history of SMS indicated that there was a discussion (between the French and the Germans) regarding how the text limit of 160 characters made SMS not very valuable. So, a German member of the committee went home on his typewriter and listed on a sheet of paper a bunch of the 160 character messages that would be useful and thus demonstrated that SMS messages could in fact be very useful.
 


I remember people talking about cutting a SIM card using a scissors or a hobby knife.
I've cut plenty of SIM cards down with a pair of scissors. The big problem is that the old SIM cards are too thick to fit in a nano tray, so you have to sand them down a bit. You'd be better off getting a new SIM, because the new SIM may provision more features.

Also, one thing about LTE that's interesting is that the first implementations didn't allow simultaneous voice and data calls... just like EDGE. I forget exactly how some carriers got around this. Some Android phones had dual radios. I think Verizon rolled out VoLTE so your experience wasn't EDGE-like.
 


I live in an area with good LTE coverage from Verizon. However, if I drive around 10 miles away, in certain areas, my iPhone will drop back to 3G. Does this mean that eventually those areas will have no coverage at all?
More likely, Verizon will upgrade those towers as a part of decommissioning their 3G equipment. It's bad for business to just cut off parts of your service area.
 


It was my understanding that SMS text runs on the guard frequencies used to provide handshaking between the cell phone and the cell tower or some other control traffic. It is the limited bandwidth of these frequencies that limits how many characters one can have in a single text message.
Not on the guard-bands between radio carriers, but using the bandwidth reserved for signaling (to set up and tear down connections). The idea is that these (very limited bandwidth) channels are unused during the time when nothing is actively being signaled, and they can be used to carry short bursts of data between users without needing to set up and then tear down a connection.

Today, since 3G, there is no longer a pool of reserved-idle bandwidth, but that's OK, because SMS was formalized into a proper 3GPP service instead of a hack that was piggy-backing on legacy signaling protocols.
 


Also, one thing about LTE that's interesting is that the first implementations didn't allow simultaneous voice and data calls... just like EDGE. I forget exactly how some carriers got around this. Some Android phones had dual radios. I think Verizon rolled out VoLTE so your experience wasn't EDGE-like.
That would have been the carriers that used CDMA (1x, EV-DO, etc.) for their 2G/3G services (Verizon and Sprint in the US). Those technologies don't allow simultaneous voice and data. So if you've got LTE without VoLTE, a voice call will kick the radio into 3G (or 2G) mode, disconnecting data services until your call is completed

Those carriers that use GSM for 2G/3G (AT&T and T-Mobile in the US), should not have this problem, since GSM always supported simultaneous voice and data. (I'm actually surprised to hear you say EDGE doesn't - I thought it did.) Making the radio fall back to 3G (or worse, 2G) for voice will greatly reduce available data bandwidth, but that's still better than no data at all.
 



Don't forget the idiotic [misleading] "5GE" that AT&T is now tossing around. I've Speedtested 5GE whenever I am connected to it and have yet to see faster data rates than when I'm connected to plain old LTE.
That's because their "5GE" is simple a rebranding of "LTE-Advanced", which they have had for quite some time. It is literally nothing more than a new logo attached to the existing tech, without any upgrades whatsoever.
 


Not on the guard-bands between radio carriers, but using the bandwidth reserved for signaling (to set up and tear down connections). The idea is that these (very limited bandwidth) channels are unused during the time when nothing is actively being signaled, and they can be used to carry short bursts of data between users without needing to set up and then tear down a connection.
I believe these are called "channels." Remembering that cell phones are just very fancy radios, idle phones monitor a control channel until they need voice or data bandwidth. When voice or data needs to be pushed to a phone, the control channel is used to tell the phone which voice or data channel to move to. When a phone needs to push voice or data, a request is made over the control channel and the tower will assign a channel. SMS is simply broadcast over the control channel in between requests.

 


I just got off a chat session with AT&T customer service; here's the situation:
* The weak cell service is due to damaged network receivers on the tower in my area. He created a ticket to supposedly raise the priority of the repair.​
* There is no difference between 3G and 4G for voice. 4G just has higher data rates.​
* The 3G network is not being shut down, nor is capacity being switched over to LTE.​
* Replacing my iPhone 4s with an LTE model won't solve the reception problem, although it would enable WiFi Calling.​
I thought I would post an update. I bought an iPhone 7 to replace my iPhone 4s, in the hope that, by gaining LTE capability, I would get better cell coverage.

I've had the phone for about 6 weeks now, and it seems that cell reception is only marginally better. It supposedly can do WiFi phone conversations, but I'm not sure it helps any, or how to tell if it is actually using WiFi.

The good: The battery life is much better than the iPhone 4s's. It is running iOS 12.3.1, which lets me run new apps. It is handy for streaming TV shows over Chromecast.

The bad: as a phone, which is its primary purpose, it sucks. The OS isn't stable compared to iOS 5 running on my iPhone 4s. The phone app frequently locks up and quits working. Force-quitting and restarting doesn't help, I have to reboot the phone. The app is much more fiddly and suffers from the hidden button UI. (For example, I have to hunt for the button to switch to the keypad so I can wade through automated menus.)

Every time I touch it (or something brushes against it) it wakes up, which is annoying. When I am carrying it in my shirt pocket, it intermittently wakes up, and I check it, thinking I got a message. Nope. The iPhone 4s doesn't wake up unless you press the home button, which is a physical button.

It is too late to return it, and the Apple store was doubtful that the 4s could be reactivated anyway. They wouldn't do it, and they weren't sure if AT&T could either. I wish I had my 4s back.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I bought an iPhone 7 to replace my iPhone 4s, in the hope that, by gaining LTE capability, I would get better cell coverage.
Is it a new (or refurb) iPhone purchased directly from Apple?
I've had the phone for about 6 weeks now, and it seems that cell reception is only marginally better. It supposedly can do WiFi phone conversations, but I'm not sure it helps any, or how to tell if it is actually using WiFi.
WiFi should be dramatically better, but you have to enable it at Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling. You should see "WiFi" in the top bar when it's active.
The bad: as a phone, which is its primary purpose, it sucks. The OS isn't stable compared to iOS 5 running on my iPhone 4s. The phone app frequently locks up and quits working....
This isn't normal. Perhaps the hardware is defective, or your bad cellular service (poor radio signals) is causing these problems.
 


Is it a new (or refurb) iPhone purchased directly from Apple?
It is a brand new phone, purchased at an Apple store.
WiFi should be dramatically better, but you have to enable it at Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling. You should see "WiFi" in the top bar when it's active.
I checked the settings, WiFi calling is turned on. I don't think it is being used though. Maybe the signal isn't quite bad enough?
This isn't normal. Perhaps the hardware is defective, or your bad cellular service (poor radio signal) is causing these problems.
When it freezes, it has been consistently on the voicemail screen. I think it is freezing when it fails to download a voicemail. After rebooting the phone, a few hours later a voice mail usually shows up.

Which reminds me of another issue. Before I got the iPhone 7, I talked to a genius about my 4s because I intermittently wasn't getting text messages or phone calls. They would sometimes appear up to a week later. Coincidentally, another customer arrived with a newer phone (maybe an iPhone 6 and fully updated) with exactly the same complaint.

He told me that my phone was old, and I need a new one, which I expected him to say. I still have the same problem with the iPhone 7.
 


I talked to a genius about my iPhone 4s because I intermittently wasn't getting text messages or phone calls. They would sometimes appear up to a week later. Coincidentally, another customer arrived with a newer phone (maybe an iPhone 6 and fully updated) with exactly the same complaint.
I've had the same problem from time to time on my Verizon iPhone 6s, though it hasn't happened in the last couple of months, as far as I can tell.
 



Are you using WiFi Calling?
Yes. Also, I've occasionally received voicemails on my iPhone days or even weeks after the callers left them, i.e. the phone pops up an alert notification that there is a new voicemail, the Phone.app icon has an incremented notification alert, but then the "new" voicemail turns out to be old. It's not terribly common, but it's not rare, either. I've probably gotten 3 or 4 substantially delayed voicemails in the last year or so. I also notice that my iPhone's list of recent calls occasionally is incomplete, though I haven't figured out an obvious pattern. FWIW, I spend most of my time in areas with excellent cellular coverage.
 




I was off to see the Genius today to complain about the problems. They ran some diagnostics, all checked out. He suggested updating to iOS 12.4, so I did. Maybe that will help. If I still have problems, he would only suggest wiping the phone and doing a piecemeal restore, which I'm not going to do.

While there, I asked if there is any way to shut off the nagging/update notifications. I'm not going to be one of Apple's beta testers when they release iOS 13.0. He said no.

After some searching, I found a note that claims that turning on Screen Time and adding appldnld.apple.com and mesu.apple.com as blocked websites will stop the notifications. Anyone know if this actually works?
 


You may need the carrier to enable it on their end. The difference should be dramatic.
I was at my daughter's house, where the Verizon LTE access is atrocious. I set up her iPhone 6 to use WiFi calling and a message popped up on her screen saying that she needed to call Verizon. It turned out that Verizon needed to authorize WiFi calling on her account before it would be enabled. Following her explanation of how bad her reception was, they enabled it on their end and, as you said, the difference was dramatic.
 


I was at my daughter's house, where the Verizon LTE access is atrocious. I set up her iPhone 6 to use WiFi calling and a message popped up on her screen saying that she needed to call Verizon. It turned out that Verizon needed to authorize WiFi calling on her account before it would be enabled. Following her explanation of how bad her reception was, they enabled it on their end and, as you said, the difference was dramatic.
I turned on WiFi calling on my iPhone 7 with Verizon a few months ago. It just worked, no need to call Verizon. It completely resolved my reception problems in my house.
 


I am using MagicJack's Call Screening service which answers a call and requires the caller to press a number. I have recently had two callers say their number presses do not provide what MagicJack is looking for. The only commonality is that both users have iPhones. I imagine there may be some setting that fails to "sound" the proper tone and, instead, uses some generic tone that is not one of the "standard tones" used in the touch-tone system.

Any ideas are welcomed. Thanks.

Edit: I guess I'm talking about the DTMF tones. Some searching indicates the iPhone will produce shorter length DTMF tones when WiFi calling is on. Suggestions for calling into a call-screening system say to simply press and hold the required number for about a second. My wife says she's getting this issue so I'll have her try the workaround and report back here.
 


I turned on WiFi calling on my iPhone 7 with Verizon a few months ago. It just worked, no need to call Verizon. It completely resolved my reception problems in my house.
I have tried turning it on, on my iPhone SE, and it comes on for about a week and then stops. It has spontaneously started again a couple of times then quit. Verizon support has been no help. Doesn't seem to be any reason I can see for the behavior. I would really like it to work, as I get no LTE at my house and no reception at all in my home office in the basement.
 


I figured I'd try to see if my TracFone BYOD iPhone is able to use WiFi Calling. The option isn't even present in Settings for me. Googling brought me to this page, which reports that I don't have a WiFi-enabled SIM, but that I might be able to get one by calling their tech support line. Someday when I have a spare hour or two I'll give that a try.
 


I have tried turning [WiFi Calling] on, on my iPhone SE, and it comes on for about a week and then stops. It has spontaneously started again a couple of times then quit. Verizon support has been no help. Doesn't seem to be any reason I can see for the behavior. I would really like it to work, as I get no LTE at my house and no reception at all in my home office in the basement.
I have a client whose condo is like a Faraday cage. There is no cell service in areas anywhere further than 10' away from the windows. We moved to WiFi Calling, and that clears up much of the issue.

However, when using Apple AirPorts at this location to provide WiFi, the number of dropped calls, digital distortions or other call failures was in the neighbourhood of 10%. We changed the WiFi to Linksys mesh, and there have been no problems.

In my own home, I have similar problems; my office is in the basement and, on LTE or 3G, calls dropped, but with WiFi, much better. I use Apple AirPorts, so there must be other issues involved.

What I can suggest is that you make sure you have more than enough nodes to ensure complete coverage of the entire residence. WiFi Calling can be quite sensitive to minor differences in signal strength that would otherwise be unoticed.
 


I have a client whose condo is like a Faraday cage. There is no cell service in areas anywhere further than 10' away from the windows. We moved to WiFi Calling, and that clears up much of the issue. However, when using Apple AirPorts at this location to provide WiFi, the number of dropped calls, digital distortions or other call failures was in the neighbourhood of 10%. We changed the WiFi to Linksys mesh, and there have been no problems. In my own home, I have similar problems; my office is in the basement and, on LTE or 3G, calls dropped, but with WiFi, much better. I use Apple AirPorts, so there must be other issues involved. What I can suggest is that you make sure you have more than enough nodes to ensure complete coverage of the entire residence. WiFi Calling can be quite sensitive to minor differences in signal strength that would otherwise be unoticed.
The client's condo may be in a more dense WiFi environment than your home, particularly if their AirPorts were only serving a single frequency band, given that other condo owners may have had similar setups. It would be nice, though I'm probably hoping for too much, if 5G LTE could clear up such issues in a few years' time, either directly or via 5G hotspots — if there are repeaters close enough — in each condo or free-standing home. In theory, the bandwidth will be better, too, though I suspect that will take even longer.
 


I have a client whose condo is like a Faraday cage. There is no cell service in areas anywhere further than 10' away from the windows. We moved to WiFi Calling, and that clears up much of the issue. However, when using Apple AirPorts at this location to provide WiFi, the number of dropped calls, digital distortions or other call failures was in the neighbourhood of 10%. We changed the WiFi to Linksys mesh, and there have been no problems....
Hmmm... I am using AirPort WiFi. Years ago, I had Linksys (I think), and our iPhones and iPads didn't play nicely with it. AirPort just sits there and runs (except for WiFi Calling?). I'll have to think about this and maybe get more feedback from the knowledgeable folks here.

Signal strength doesn't seem to make any difference, but maybe I'll get out an AirPort Express I'm not using and stick it in the basement.
 


All the network carriers and third-party providers are extincting the remaining 2G and 3G wireless services on December 31. Think flip phones.

This deadline has been out there for quite a while... many netwroks have already decommissioned the old services. We will all need 4G - LTE and newer going forward on New Year's day 2020. (Bye-bye CDMA network protocol.)

I've been using a TracFone flipper for 11 years. The number is native to my local Verizon region in Wyoming but is portable to most any other carrierr, so I am shopping around for a used / reconditioned iPhone. It appears from Mactracker that the basic iPhone 6 first release is not acceptable, but subsequent 6 series iPhones are fine... 6S, 6 Plus, 6S Plus, and the iPhone SE... and anything newer. The 6 series iPhones will all run iOS 13.

A decent refurbed or reconditioned iPhone 6S can be had for $100-150 outright. But I'm sending up a yellow flag that there will likely be extraordinary demand for them between now and the end of the year, and I expect availability to go down, inversely proportional to prices going up. Don't procrastinate, he says.... Just a reminder for any semi-digital Luddites besides myself who are still using flip phones or door hinge devices.
 


All the network carriers and third-party providers are extincting the remaining 2G and 3G wireless services on December 31. Think flip phones.
I hadn't heard that, which is interesting, since my wife has had a flip phone (AT&T prepaid) for many years. In fact, I just added to her time yesterday, which takes it to Feb, 2020, and nothing was indicated that it wouldn't function beyond the end of the year.

She prefers the flip phone, since it doesn't "purse dial", and she isn't into all the apps for use on the go. She sticks to her iPad and is basically a consumer of info. If she needs to email for any reason while we are away from home, she uses my iPhone with the AOL app (set to her login).

As for a replacement on TracFone, last spring I got an iPhone 7 (brand new, full warranty, 32 GB) and have been quite happy with it. With cautious use of the data, it is a good alternative to the much more expensive monthly plans the major networks offer.
 


All the network carriers and third-party providers are extincting the remaining 2G and 3G wireless services on December 31. Think flip phones.
From what I can find, this date is only for Verizon. Other carriers have other dates. If you have an article which says otherwise, please share it.
1oT said:
A complete Overview of 2G & 3G Sunsets (August 29, 2019)

United States

AT&T

  • 2G Shutdown: January 2017
  • 3G Last Activations: June 26, 2019
  • 3G Shutdown: February 2022
Verizon
  • 2G Last Activations: June 30, 2018
  • 2G Shutdown: December 31, 2019
  • 3G Last Activations: June 30, 2018
  • 3G Shutdown: December 31, 2019
T-Mobile
  • 2G Shutdown: December 31, 2020
Sprint
  • 2G Shutdown: December 31, 2021
  • 3G Last Activations: April 30, 2019
  • 3G Shutdown: December 31, 2022
The article goes on to list dates for carriers worldwide. Dates vary tremendously. Some have already turned off 3G. Some won't be doing so for several more years.
 


All the network carriers and third-party providers are extincting the remaining 2G and 3G wireless services on December 31. Think flip phones.
This deadline has been out there for quite a while... many netwroks have already decommissioned the old services. We will all need 4G - LTE and newer going forward on New Year's day 2020. (Bye-bye CDMA network protocol.)
I've been using a TracFone flipper for 11 years. The number is native to my local Verizon region in Wyoming but is portable to most any other carrierr, so I am shopping around for a used / reconditioned iPhone. It appears from Mactracker that the basic iPhone 6 first release is not acceptable, but subsequent 6 series iPhones are fine... 6S, 6 Plus, 6S Plus, and the iPhone SE... and anything newer. The 6 series iPhones will all run iOS 13.
A decent refurbed or reconditioned iPhone 6S can be had for $100-150 outright. But I'm sending up a yellow flag that there will likely be extraordinary demand for them between now and the end of the year, and I expect availability to go down, inversely proportional to prices going up. Don't procrastinate, he says.... Just a reminder for any semi-digital Luddites besides myself who are still using flip phones or door hinge devices.
Verizon recently pushed back the CDMA (2G/3G) shutoff to December 31, 2020, according to this knowledge base article:
Verizon Wireless said:
While the CDMA network will remain available as-is until the end of next year, the article lists several new restrictions beginning this December 31 for all devices that do not support HD Voice, which include the iPhone 5s and older. (These are phones that do not support Voice over LTE.) Verizon has already stopped allowing activation of non-HD Voice devices for any new line of service.
 


I'm using TotalWireless (related to Tracfone) for service with my iPhone 5s. I've just been informed by TotalWireless that Verizon (that's the carrier that they use) requires not only 4G starting January 1, 2020, but also the cell phone must use VoLTE. This means that the 5s is history and I'll need a newer iPhone by the end of the year
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Who knew that some unknown company was handling untold billions of text messages behind the scenes for the major phone companies...
CNet said:
Delayed Valentine's Day messages were sent on every network overnight
Dozens of people have reported receiving strange, out-of-context messages Wednesday night and Thursday morning on all networks in the US, with many of the messages originally meant for Valentine's Day. Not only were texts delayed from February to November, some of them had first been sent on Valentine's Day two years ago.

... The glitch was caused by a maintenance update for the messaging platforms used by multiple US carriers, according to a statement from Sprint.

... T-Mobile said the issue was with a third-party vendor that has since been resolved, while Verizon claimed a text message service provider called Syniverse could be responsible for the glitch.

Syniverse confirmed that it was responsible, saying that during internal maintenance last night, 168,149 previously undelivered messages were sent.
Syniverse said:
Syniverse Technologies...
...
7 billion
devices reached

We fuel the experiences of the future.
Our communications platform allows businesses to reach customers in every corner of the globe. Its deep intelligence guarantees smart, personalized messages that reach customers at the right time. Because when you get customer engagement right, the opportunities are truly limitless.

60 billion
messages delivered a month
#security #privacy #SMS #textmessages
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch



Some years ago I switched my office and home phone numbers to MagicJack. While the quality of the audio isn't as good as a landline, there are a number of features that made me overlook that issue:
1. MagicJack will, at your option, record your unanswered calls and email the audio file to you. In essence, I never miss a call.​
2. MagicJack has implemented an optional call-screening option which requires the caller to enter a single specific/random key-press. Result: No more robo-calls. None, zero, nada. (The added benefit is that a cold-calling salesman, having successfully passed through the screener, will usually just hang up when he/she only hears my answering machine.)​
3. MagicJack costs, for the year, about 1/10 of the cost of a landline or even a VoIP line added to your Internet service.​
4. I use conditional call-forwarding on my cellphone so any unanswered calls go to the MagicJack system where a legitimate called may leave a message and it gets emailed to me along with their phone number.​

There is one issue about which one should be aware, however: Some iPhones will produce a tone that is too short for the MagicJack call screener to recognize; Android phones don't seem to have this problem. The workaround is simply to tell your contacts to hold the required key-press for a half-second or so. I note that issue on my website's contact page so new clients can get through to me.

It should be noted that, once you set up the MagicJack device, you may disconnect it so, consider this:
1. You set up the MagicJack with a new phone number MagicJack assigns to you. Then you unplug it.​
2. You set up conditional forwarding on your cellphone so all unanswered calls go to the MagicJack system where call-screening will qualify callers, answer and record a message, then email the voice message (which, in my case, ends up in my phone even if I'm traveling overseas).​

You no longer would use the "visual voicemail" on your phone. With the MagicJack answering/screening all unanswered calls, no more robo-callers and probably many fewer cold-calling salespeople getting to your cellphone's voicemail.

One additional benefit with the MagicJack: If you take it with you overseas and plug it into the USB port of your computer that is connected to the WiFi of your hotel, you may make free calls to any US (and, I think, Canada) phone number. You don't even need a real phone, in the case, as the MagicJack will use your computer's mic and speaker. (This is great if your kid goes off to Europe for school.)

I do not work for MagicJack nor do I have any financial interest in the company.
 


Talking of voicemail and the like...

My iPhone has started offering me transcriptions of voicemail - actual text on the screen.

It says it's beta software, but it's still very convenient; the transcription ain't perfect, but you can generally get an accurate rendering of caller name, company and other basics. Saves time listening.

I hadn't seen this new service discussed anywhere - have I just been obtuse?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
My iPhone has started offering me transcriptions of voicemail - actual text on the screen. It says it's beta software, but it's still very convenient; the transcription ain't perfect, but you can generally get an accurate rendering of caller name, company and other basics. Saves time listening. I hadn't seen this new service discussed anywhere - have I just been obtuse?
This has been going on for a while. Think about it, though: your phone company and/or Apple and/or outsourced contractors is listening to your personal voice mails, processing them (with "AI" of some kind), transcribing them and presumably storing them. There are any number of possibilities for additional processing, sharing, and analysis, none of which you control or know about. Does any of us understand how this works, exactly? What could possibly go wrong?

#security #privacy #voicemail #transcription
 


My iPhone has started offering me transcriptions of voicemail - actual text on the screen. ... I hadn't seen this new service discussed anywhere - have I just been obtuse?
Transcription is a feature of Apple's "Visual Voicemail," but availability depends on your region, carrier, and language selection. For example, it has been available since iOS 10 through most of the major US carriers on iPhones using US English, but Apple has not been fast to roll it out to other regions, languages, or language variants. I dimly recall reading that some other English variants were beginning to get the feature earlier this year, but perhaps I am imagining that.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Transcription is a feature of Apple's "Visual Voicemail," but availability depends on your region, carrier, and language selection....
Apple doesn't seem to be very clear about what's happening, not even using the word "transcription" here (although "Transcription Beta" is displayed in the iPhone picture).
Apple Support said:
Save and share Visual Voicemail messages on your iPhone
Save your Visual Voicemail messages as notes or voice memos, and share them using Messages, Mail, or Airdrop.

You need a carrier that supports Visual Voicemail in order to save Visual Voicemail messages. If you aren't sure if your carrier supports Visual Voicemail, contact them for more information.
Oh, here's more, although it's still vague about what's happening and who's doing the transcription:
Apple said:
iPhone User Guide
Voicemail transcription (beta; available only in certain regions) shows your messages transcribed into text. Transcription is limited to voicemails in English received on your iPhone with iOS 10 or later. Transcription depends on the quality of the recording.

Note: Voicemail, Visual Voicemail, and Voicemail transcription are available from select carriers in select regions.
It's not clear, for example, whether Apple is using "Siri" for the task.
Apple said:
Ask Siri, Dictation & Privacy
When you make requests, Siri sends certain data about you to Apple to help respond to your requests

When you use Siri and Dictation, the things you say and dictate will be sent to Apple to process your requests. In addition to these audio recordings, your device will send other Siri Data, such as:
  • contact names, nicknames, and relationships (e.g., “my dad”), if you set them up in your contacts;
  • music, books and podcasts you enjoy;
  • names of your and your Family Sharing members’ devices;
  • names of devices and members of a shared home in the Home app; and
  • the names of your photo albums, apps installed on your device, and shortcuts you added through Siri.
... By using Siri or Dictation, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information, including your voice input data and Siri Data
 


Apple doesn't seem to be very clear about what's happening, not even using the word "transcription" here (although "Transcription Beta" is displayed in the iPhone picture). ... It's not clear, for example, whether Apple is using "Siri" for the task.
Yes, it is another case of extremely poor documentation from Apple.

Siri does seem to be involved, since having Siri's language set to US English was, at one time, a requirement for voicemail transcription to work.
 


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