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How will iPhone 6's Wi-Fi calling, VoLTE affect enterprise networks?

Colin Neagle | Sept. 18, 2014
While the cosmetic features like screen size and processing power of Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus attracted the most attention, their use of Wi-Fi and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for voice and video calling could eventually have a major impact on how phone calls are handled in the enterprise.

While the cosmetic features like screen size and processing power of Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus attracted the most attention, their use of Wi-Fi and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for voice and video calling could eventually have a major impact on how phone calls are handled in the enterprise.

On its website, Apple touts the iPhone's Wi-Fi voice and video calling feature as a good solution "when you don't have a good cellular signal." As this helpful Gizmodo guide to Wi-Fi calling points out, Wi-Fi calling could help users save money by using an internet connection instead of a carrier's network, and unlike other services like Skype and Google Voice, users can make and receive calls with the same phone number they use for traditional phone calls. This makes it helpful for employees visiting clients' offices or attending large events, relying on the available Wi-Fi networks to make calls and send text messages without running up their wireless bills.

In order for Wi-Fi calling to be truly useful, the device using it will need to be able to transition on and off Wi-Fi networks without dropping the call. That's why Apple's website discusses the iPhone's Wi-Fi calling in the context of VoLTE, which many consider the only option for a seamless transition between Wi-Fi and carriers' networks. As Gizmodo pointed out, T-Mobile offers Wi-Fi calling not only on the iPhone but also on several Android and Windows Phone smartphones, but warns in fine print that "most devices will not transition between Wi-Fi and the wireless network."

This is the catch — it might be a while before iPhone users (and their Android counterparts) can really make use of Wi-Fi calling and VoLTE because it might be a while until carriers support both. T-Mobile currently supports Wi-Fi calling but not VoLTE, hence the disclaimer. Ditto for Sprint, which does not yet offer Wi-Fi calling for the iPhone but does for some Android devices. Verizon Wireless announced its VoLTE voice and video calling service this week, but the company "said it had no plans for Wi-Fi calling," according to a recent CNET report. AT&T appears to have hit the nail on the head, downplaying T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling win with the iPhone (it was the only provider shown at Apple's iPhone announcement event that supports the feature) and announcing that it will roll out VoLTE soon and Wi-Fi calling in 2015.

Even when the carriers do support VoLTE, it might not be as useful as advertised. Verizon Wireless is already advertising its VoLTE service, called Advanced Calling 1.0, but warns that "HD Voice requires both parties to use a Verizon HD Voice-enabled phone on Verizon's 4G LTE network." So that transition from Wi-Fi calling to VoLTE will only be seamless when calling another Verizon user.

 

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