Wi-Fi Calling is the commercial name for a telecommunication technology that allows to seamlessly place and receive calls over Wi-Fi in areas where there is no mobile coverage. Seamless means that you still use your actual phone number: the person you call, or you receive a call from, will never know.
Implementations of Wi-Fi Calling consist of either native or downloaded / OTT applications on your device connecting to a carrier's network via Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), the commercial name for Generic Access Network (GAN). GAN is a telecommunications system that allows voice, data and multimedia from your phone to be transferred to your carrier over the Internet, and enter the carrier's core network as if they had been beamed over the air. While GAN-based Wi-Fi Calling implementations are still in operation, a more recent alternative utilises an Evolved Packet Data Gateway (ePDG) within LTE's Evolved Packet Core (EPC).
T-Mobile USA pioneered Wi-Fi calling in 2007 in a bid to improve user experience in areas lacking mobile network coverage. The ability to seamlessly place calls and send texts over Wi-Fi and the increasing Wi-Fi coverage has subsequently resulted in a new breed of “Wi-Fi first” carriers. Such carriers offer(ed) dramatically different price points, as long as subscribers would agree to remain in Wi-Fi coverage and use the mobile network as a fallback.
Naturally, not all Wi-Fi calling implementations are the same. We already mentioned that some devices have Wi-Fi calling pre-integrated and other devices require the installation of an application. There are also differences in mobility handling (the ability to move from Wi-Fi to the mobile data network and vice versa while on a call) with some carriers opting for automatic handover and others preferring the user to actively decide by pressing a soft-button. Finally, some carriers are using vertical implementations in the core network, where others prefer to wait until they can deploy a VoLTE-based architecture.
The Wi-Fi Calling market overview contains information on all aspects discussed in this article. Here is the list of carriers in the overview:
The overview is delivered as a table, with the carriers listed on the first column, and information on their offering one a per-line basis. Information includes the Service name, the Type (Native/Download), available Devices, Mobility (automatic handover between WiFi and 3G/4G), end-user Costs, Statistics on market reach and useful Links for further reading.
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