back to article T-Mobile US goes gaga for Wi-Fi calling, AT&T to launch in 2015

Now that Apple has announced Wi-Fi calling as one of the major new features of the iPhone 6 series, multiple mobile carriers are scrambling to support the tech, with AT&T announcing that it will offer it for the first time starting next year. T-Mobile in the US and EE in Europe were the two carriers mentioned when Apple …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unbelievable..

    This is then the second time Apple has forced carriers to change their ways.

    I sort of missed that one in all the marketing talk, but it is actually of greater importance than all the "new" stuff that wasn't that new, and probably the only sane reason I see to get an iPhone 6 instead of the 5 which still actually fits in a pocket without causing discomfort elsewhere.

    No doubt the Android platform will follow quickly - Google must be very keen on the sort of data that fully documents a journey from home to work/pub/etc..

    1. R 11

      Re: Unbelievable..

      I've had Wifi calling on my Android Moto-X with Republic Wireless for months. They've been offering it on other phones for a couple of years.

      It's a nice feature, but at least Republic Wireless recognize this is cost shifting to the customer and so have cheaper plans ($25/month for unlimited talk/text and 5GB of 3g). The big networks offering this with the iPhone don't seem to be doing the same, so your broadband gets used, reducing congestion on their towers and you continue to pay exactly the same.

      1. Epobirs

        Re: Unbelievable..

        My T-Mobile Galaxy SII has always had it. It's been a lifesaver because the signal in my neighborhood is generally lousy but the cable modem service is quite good since they rolled out the DOCSIS 3 support.

    2. RLWatkins

      Re: Unbelievable..

      Hasn't T-Mobile had this for... what? Three, four years? I got a G1 when they first were offered, and T-Mobile already had WiFi calling then.

      No, this is the second time Apple has adopted a mature technology, then convinced you that they pioneered it. Good advertising that, but not real honest.

      (No, not the second time. The tenth? Fifteenth...?)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unbelievable..

      Obviously AC isn't paying attention if he didn't know some Android phones have had this capability forever. I'm an iPhone owner, but I was quite aware of that. It always seemed rather pointless to me since T Mobile was the only big carrier in the US to support it, and they pretty much have had to push more consumer-friendly policies as a way of getting some attention from AT&T and Verizon.

      What Apple did do by offering this with the iPhone 6 is get AT&T to follow, which is big news. No doubt Verizon will go along as well. One way Apple benefits Android users, even if they don't like to admit it, is they're better at pushing the big boys around for stuff like this. Another example being the agreements with Visa/MC/AXP for NFC, which will probably clear the way for Google to do the same (once they add support for one time use numbers which they should have had all along)

      How useful wifi calling really is remains to be seen. If I'm in a place that has an AT&T wifi hotspot, would it force my call onto wifi? What if I don't want that, since it is more prone to packet delays that compromise the call quality? This is great if the cell is overloaded, but if the cell isn't and the wifi is overloaded I'm screwed. Given that I don't save any money this is probably something I end up turning off as being an advantage for the carrier but not for me. Really stupid that the minutes would be counted if I'm using my home wifi!

      I suppose it doesn't really matter who is billed for the calls since minutes are no longer a scarce commodity. This would have been awesome about 10 years ago, but today it is meh. I could see it being really handy for those who have poor coverage at home or at work though.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hope you enjoy it as much as I do

    Wi-Fi calling works very well on Three using the Three inTouch Wi–Fi calling app on my non-fruity Android phone. Apparently it's also available for iOS, and O2 has something similar I believe. So I'm very pleased to hear that Apple's invented it again especially for the iPhone 6.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Hope you enjoy it as much as I do

      O2 has TuGo. Unfortunately, it's not available for corporate customers.

      Well, not this corporate customer anyway :-(

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Hope you enjoy it as much as I do

      O2 has TuGo. It has some good points, like being able to call at UK rates from anywhere in the world using Wifi, being able to use my iPad to make and receive calls, and text from my desktop computer.

      However, I have two wifi access points at home so if I move from one side of the house to the other, the call gets dropped. Skype has the same problem. Also it can't hand-over between wifi and mobile networks as they use different apps.

  3. Old Handle
    Meh

    Why?

    I'm afraid I don't understand the purpose of this. Is it just for use when you have access to an 802.11 network but no cellular (which seems like an unusual situation) or does it save you minutes if you have a non-unlimited voice plan? Or what?

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      Is it just for use when you have access to an 802.11 network but no cellular (which seems like an unusual situation)

      ROFL!

      I assure you, where I work, mobile coverage is "poor", yet we have fantastic WiFi. WiFI calling would be ideal for us.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      - WiFi calling works in deep inside buildings and hotels where cell signals aren't reliable

      - US National parks out in the middle of nowhere are more likely to have free WiFi than a cell signal

      - Crappy WiFi costs less than crappy cellular in some countries

      - Your home country is never a long distance call on WiFi

      On the downside, WiFi access points are terrible at handling more than 50 people. It doesn't help that most phones are set to aggressively pre-fetch data as soon as WiFi is available.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      WiFi calling is a great way to get rid of the MicroCell that some people need to use to get better coverage in their house. Given that you probably already have WiFi anyway, it means that it is one less device you need to buy and can use what you already have. I have Gigabit service at home, so WiFi calling would be great and get rid of the MicroCell. I have a Wireless LAN Controller (WLC) with two AP's in the attic. So I get 90% to 100% signal strength; even on 5GHz. Even the MicroCell has it's distance limitations and having more than one is not an option; you can't roam between them or from the MacroCell (the carriers network) to a MicroCell, only from the MicroCell to the MacroCell. If WiFi calling is really just VoIP and uses the same setup as VoLTE, then roaming between the two seamlessly would work.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        "If WiFi calling is really just VoIP and uses the same setup as VoLTE, then roaming between the two seamlessly would work."

        It doesn't quite work that way. It's more like a modified SIP as it's currently set up. It's a more or less proprietary implementation so as the article notes it needs a T-Mobile-specific firmware for it to work.

        1. Levente Szileszky

          Re: Why?

          "so as the article notes it needs a T-Mobile-specific firmware for it to work."

          It's actually not true as it's still not more than a couple secure extra packages installed - the keyword is "secure" so you cannot install yourself (in the early years I used to but then few years ago they made it much harder and subsequently they bumped up their coverage in NYC to the current level of greatness so I don't care anymore.)

    4. Steve Knox

      Re: Why?

      ...when you have access to an 802.11 network but no cellular...

      E.g, when you're a T-Mobile US customer.

      1. Levente Szileszky

        Re: Why?

        'E.g, when you're a T-Mobile US customer"

        ...and you also happen to be a classic inbreeding redneck somewhere waaay out in the sticks - otherwise you enjoy decent signal on TMO practically everywhere like the rest of us do, people living in civilized (metropolitan) areas, approx 85% of the US population, according to the 2011 Census Bureau stats.

        I, for one, am glad that TMO is not spending any money on covering remote man-hunting, gun-touting, sister-loving communities, religious sects and alikes. Once got to the point when in our civililzed areas we are all enjoying our daily 100Mbit LTE speeds and using VoLTE then I'll be fine with spending the profits on extending coverage to the nomads - until then they should pay for VZW (they save enough on housing, hah.)

    5. Epobirs

      Re: Why?

      It isn't unusual at all. Cellular service in my home's vicinity is very spotty but the WiFi off my cable modem service is quite good. Unlimited voice is useless if you cannot connect. And data is never unlimited if you read the small print. Using WiFi when available saves the data allocation for when you need it.

  4. Keven E.

    WiFi calling

    I use T-mobe here in the US. It would save me charged min. against a plan, 'cept I get unlimited as most do. WiFi calling works fine when sitting around the house, but in transit calls have quite a difficult time maintaining continuity... to put it mildly. I don't see that issue being fixed very soon.

  5. Commenter44655

    $50 low-end smartphone already has that...

    I have a cheap Huawei U8686 from T-Mobile that has supported wifi calling since new -- about 2 years ago. It's a $50 phone, bought at the local WalMart from the pay-as-you-go section.

    Why has it taken Apple so long to add this in? It's obviously not rocket science.

    However, it does illustrate one annoying point -- Apple controls the carriers.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: $50 low-end smartphone already has that...

      Why has it taken Apple so long to add this in?

      The handset manufacturers could add it in fairly easily. But for it to work with your existing mobile number, the mobile networks need to get on board and support it, otherwise you'll have two phone numbers: A GSM number and a WiFi number.

  6. Gannettt

    Is that the same AT&T who sell their 'high speed internet' by saying that using the bundled wifi router helps you save on expensive mobile data...from the people who made t expensive in the first place? Instead of racking up your data allowance, how about adding to your monthly broadband data cap...sorry, fair usage limit? I must be getting too old for all this, I just wonder what happened to just picking up a phone and dialling a number.

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "Everybody that buys a mobile share value plan gets unlimited talk and text. So we don't have this burning desire for the need of coverage or for other reason to go aggressively after Wi-Fi"

    Translation: it doesn't make us any more money so we don't give a shit about developing new features.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T-Mobile WiFi calling is great internationally, well most of the time.

    I use WiFi calling either due to building construction/reception issues (I teach in abuilding made out of >12" thick concrete with lots of metal in it), and I use it for great international roaming rates.

    Brazil I had a hard time with the hotel WiFi, but when in the UK and Israel, when on WiFi calls to/from the US were the same as if I was in the US.

    Hop off WiFi calling to make local calls in the country at $0.20/minute, worked great.

    Add to that the 2G international data roaming at no extra charge, and it got me to move from my old carrier of 18 years (Sprint, who had good reception for me) to T-Mobile.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks, too-little-too-late carriers.......

    I already call over data/wifi, if I want. Which app should I use.....the one with encryption, or the carrier's?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T-Mobile has had WiFi calling for over a decade

    I have had phones on the T-Mobile network with WiFi calling for over a decade. It works great -- seamless switching between WiFi and cell networks in the middle of calls(*).

    Also, make and receive calls on your usual number when abroad without paying roaming charges.

    This is merely another case of Apple catching up.

    * The handover between cell and WiFi in the middle of calls used to work better on the dumbphones than it seems to work today.

  11. Mad Hacker
    Stop

    You realize this is going to work on older iPhones too?

    You said: Phones generally can't be upgraded to support the tech if they didn't ship with it.

    Wow, actually with iOS 8 all the iPhones 5s, 5c, 5, and 4s will also get this feature, so no that's not that accurate.

    1. Levente Szileszky

      Re: You realize this is going to work on older iPhones too?

      You realize theat they ALL USED TO HAVE it , TOO? It's just when TackyOS (a' la J.IVE) arrived they broke all provider (TMO) compatibility.

  12. Slx

    Mobile phone companies discover and attempt to rebrand VoIP.

    I'm not sure why I'm yawning.

    Also EE is a UK-only network. It's parents Orange and T-Mobile may have a bigger Europe footprint but EE is only in one market.

    Vodafone is the closest to a pan EU player but even they miss key markets like they've no presence in France having pulled out of a deal with SFR a good few years ago.

    Vodafone (UK).Orange (F), T-Mobile (D), Telefonica (O2) (ES) and maybe Telia-Sonera (Sweden/Finland) and Hutchinson 3 (HK) all cover multiple countries. However they're behaving like little individual national companies with single brands and offering customers usually no or very few benefits by being pan EU.

    So it's still very hard to generalise about European telcos. It's still 27+ markets with some common regulation.

  13. Levente Szileszky

    Classic case of pure BS Apple propaganda while simply using exisiting tech...

    ...and trying to sell it as some sort of "new innovation" - WiFI Calling, brouhahahaha... I seriously cannot recall how many years ago T-Mobile started shipping every phone with WiFi Calling including iPhones running iOS < the tacky one (v7)...

    ...just how long the media will ignore the numerous Apple elephants in the room, only to save their stock investment...?

  14. Al Jones

    It's not cool until Apple does it

    A colleague was gushing about this "new" feature of the Apple 6, though he had it ass-backward - he insisted that it would allow him to make calls to foreign countries for free, rather than to make free calls home from foreign countries when traveling.

    I whipped out my 4 (5?) year old T-Mobile Blackberry 8900, turned off the cell-phone option, and called him over the office wi-fi connection. Was he impressed? Not in the least, but he still thinks it'll be cool now that Apple has invented it!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021