A Beginner’s Guide To Wi-Fi Calling
Mobile apps like Skype and Google Hangouts now make it possible for users to make calls over Internet lines instead of using the networks of mobile carriers. Perhaps because they want a piece of the action, too, wireless carriers are now starting to offer Wi-Fi calling services themselves. But what exactly is Wi-Fi calling, and how can users benefit from it? Here is a quick guide.
Using Wi-Fi Connections Instead of Mobile Phone Networks
When you use your smartphone, you normally utilize a mobile connection provided by a wireless carrier (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, etc). But when you make calls through a Wi-Fi connection, either through a Wi-Fi network you set up at home or at the office, or from a public Wi-Fi hotspot (such as those in libraries or cafes), you are Wi-Fi calling. You are still using the usual phone numbers, but just connecting to them via Wi-Fi instead of mobile networks.
Benefitting From Wi-Fi Networks When Making Calls
Regardless of how well wireless carriers claim that they offer full wireless coverage, there will still be certain areas where is weak or even non-existent mobile network coverage. This is especially true when you visit a rural area, or when inside a building with weak phone reception, or when going to your basement. This is where Wi-Fi calling comes in -- as long as the area you are in has a decent Wi-Fi connection, you can make voice calls.
Differentiating Wi-Fi Calling From What Skype and Viber Are Offering
You may be asking: Isn't that what Skype or Viber is already doing? Sure, various services like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, and even Facebook (via Messenger) already offer voice over Internet capabilities via a Wi-Fi network. But Wi-Fi calling as provided by carriers are different because the service is incorporated natively into your smartphone's system, which means that you no longer need to launch any app (which you do when using Skype, Viber, etc) when making calls through Wi-Fi. You can just set your mobile device to switch to Wi-Fi calling when it can not detect a wireless mobile network. Also, with carrier-provided Wi-Fi calling services, you will not need to add your contacts list because it accesses it directly from your handset's phone book.
Establishing The Minimum Speed Requirements To Make Wi-Fi Calls
A higher throughput usually results to a better reception. But how slow can your connection get, and still be able to make Wi-Fi calls? A speed of 1 mbps should be enough. Some carriers are claiming you can make calls with 80 kbps, but do not be surprised if you experience some dropped calls.
Knowing Which Smartphones and Which Carriers Are Offering Wi-Fi Calling
Among the big four major wireless carriers in the United States, it is a choice between Sprint and T-Mobile, for now. Verizon Wireless and AT&T are already working on debuting their Wi-Fi calling services either this year or the next. Among lesser carriers, Republic Wireless already offers the service by default on its smartphones.
Speaking of smartphones, which handsets are capable of making Wi-Fi calls? Sprint offers it on its iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5S, and iPhone 5C (but only if it runs on iOS version 8.3). T-Mobile has a wider range of handsets that can handle Wi-Fi calling. You can check out its list here.
Taking Costing Factors Into Account
Generally, Wi-Fi calling will not cost you more, but the minutes you spend making Wi-Fi calls will be deducted from your regular minutes allowance, which may vary depending on your carrier and the plan you signed up under. It would be best to check the fine print of your plan to be sure.
Taking Advantage of Wi-Fi Calling Abroad
Can you make use of Wi-Fi calling in countries outside the US? Again, that may depend on your carrier and your specific plan. Also, the country you are visiting also matters.