What is Wi-Fi Calling and How Does It Affect Me?

Wi-Fi calling is another term for voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi). Wi-Fi calling makes it possible for people to use the same mobile network services they’re used to – like voice and messaging services – over Wi-Fi networks.

Beyond the ability to make calls over a Wi-Fi network, people can use Wi-Fi calling to seamlessly transition from their mobile/cellular networks to home, office, or public Wi-Fi networks.

With VoWiFi, users get a seamless experience with the best coverage and connection. In addition to better mobile/cellular reception and in-building coverage, Wi-Fi calling may also be used to circumnavigate a mobile/cellular connection altogether—a potential game-changer for users, businesses and network providers alike.

Motivations behind Wi-Fi calling

The reasons to deploy WiFi Calling vary by country and operator. The primary reason for mobile network operators (MNOs) to offer and deploy Wi-Fi calling is to address indoor mobile network coverage challenges. Due to signal strength, changes in building structures, and the growing reliance on smart phones, providing users with reliable coverage and connection has long been a challenge. With so much activity focused around mobile devices, it’s also more important than ever.

For MNOs, one of the top reasons for subscriber churn is poor indoor coverage, especially at home or work.

"Poor indoor coverage is one of the top reasons for new subscriber 15/30 day returns" VoWiFI for Dummies

If a customer can’t get quality coverage from his or her carrier, then the customer will cease to be a customer. Even when the customer is a business, enough difficulty with service can lead the business to switch mobile providers. When signal strength is too low and Wi-Fi networks are available, MNOs have an opportunity to bridge the coverage gap and differentiate themselves from competitors.

In addition to making customers happy with better coverage options, MNOs experience other benefits, including cellular network offload, and upsell opportunities from fixed-to-mobile substitution, subscriber acquisition, and reduced coverage complaints.

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How to use WiFi calling

Wi-Fi calling is typically user-friendly due to the seamless nature of the connection between carrier network and Wi-Fi hotspots. As a user, you start by enabling Wi-Fi calling if your carrier offers it.

If your smart phone connects to Wi-Fi automatically, then transfer occurs automatically when you come into range of a Wi-Fi hotspot that you have access to—including private hotspots for which you have login credentials, and public hotspots.

As the name implies, Wi-Fi calling is based on a solid Wi-Fi connection. If you don’t have Wi-Fi enabled on your phone, if your available Wi-Fi signal requires a password that you don’t have, or if you have your phone set to avoid public Wi-Fi networks, then this feature will not work in those situations.

As long as your smart phone has this capability, your carrier will typically support it. All four major US carriers provide built-in WiFi calling. The number of different handsets each vendor offers varies per carrier.

The connection speed to carry a Wi-Fi call through without major quality interference is largely regarded as 1Mbps, although some carriers claim they can run Wi-Fi calling off of speeds as low as 80kbps.

WiFi calling: looking ahead

MNOs, businesses and consumers alike reap the benefits from Wi-Fi calling as it extends the quality and reach of indoor coverage. Others have seen the potential of VoWiFi and its potential to avoid international fees.

Some carriers offer plans that include Wi-Fi for various countries at no additional charge. For some, it simply comes out of your minutes allowance. Other carriers charge fees for international Wi-Fi calling, and some carriers only allow it between the US and Canada.

Some enterprises are already looking at ways to monetize Wi-Fi calling amongst their customers. Other businesses are exploring ways to use Wi-Fi calling in place of international voice and data plans to cut communications costs.

Dive deeper into Voice Over Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi calling has changed the game for consumers and mobile network operators alike. To learn more about Wi-Fi calling, download our free ebook, Voice Over WiFi for Dummies. Chapter six, “Ten Key VoWiFi Questions,” may provide the answers to questions you have—if not, a friendly Mitel representative is always a click or phone call away.

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