Cellular Carriers Go for Wi-Fi Calling

Carl Weinschenk
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2016 Business Communications: Changing the Way We Work

The temptation to sit back and not think that change is occurring can be overpowering, especially if things are going well. In telecommunications, for instance, carriers were in denial about the advantages of carrier Ethernet services because the new approach threatened the T-1 business, which was a cash cow. Likewise, they didn’t react quickly against VoIP, since it was a threat to their circuit switched services.

The same thing is now happening with Wi-Fi calling. The ability to use Wi-Fi networks for voice and texting services is attractive to consumers because the quality can be better and such services are cheaper. It does, however, mean that people are using their cellular services less.

It is possible to say that the telephone companies are adopting Wi-Fi calling because they learned from their mistakes. That is not likely the reason, however. The better explanation is that, unlike the earlier examples, it offers them advantages over the older way of doing things.

The advantage is a big one: It frees expensive and crowded bandwidth. RCR Wireless reported today that AT&T Mobility is expanding support from Apple iOS-only to Android. The carrier is offering Wi-Fi calling on the LG G4 device for both voice and text messaging.

The offer seems a bit constrained -- those wanting to take advantage must download software, have a postpaid account, and be set up for the HD Voice service. It is, however, a tangible step in expanding Wi-Fi calling. AT&T launched Wi-Fi calling for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s using iOS 9 or later last August.

The Verge reported in March that AT&T had begun offering Wi-Fi calling for international calls. The service at that point was only made available for iPhone 6 or newer devices running iOS 9.3.

It may be that the coming of Android Marshmallow will be the linchpin to making Wi-Fi calling on cellular devices the norm. MobileSyrup reported yesterday that Canadian carrier Rogers is offering the service on the Marshmallow-powered Galaxy Note 5 and will introduce it on the LG G4 on June 22.  

Verizon Wireless initially announced support for Wi-Fi calling in March. Its CIO reported that the service was available on the iPhone 6 and subsequent releases.

Clearly, Wi-Fi calling has quickly become an established way to provide voice and text services. It will continue to grow because it is a win for both subscribers and carriers.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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