Free WiFi Calling On Major Carriers
If you have a mobile calling plan that limits the number of minutes or text messages you can use each month, you'll be interested in today's article. Likewise, if you spend time in buildings where the cellular signal is poor, you'll want to learn more about WiFi Calling. Read on...
What is WiFi Calling?
On October 8, 2015, AT&T became the third major carrier to offer free voice and text services over WiFi connections. T-mobile became the first major carrier to offer WiFi Calling back in 2011. Sprint joined the club in the Spring of 2014. Verizon is still dragging its feet, saying only that it intends to offer WiFi calling "at some unspecified future date."
The cellular carriers call this feature, “WiFi Calling.” In past articles, I’ve called it hybrid phone service. There are some important differences between WiFi Calling and hybrid services such as Republic Wireless and Google’s Project Fi.
First, every phone sold by Republic Wireless or Project Fi is capable of using a WiFi connection. That’s not the case with carriers’ WiFi Calling. AT&T offers WiFi Calling only on Apple iPhone models 6, 6 Plus, 6S, and 6S Plus running iOS 9. In other words, only the most expensive top-of-the line iPhone models are supported, and Android users are out of luck.
Is there some technical reason for that? Apparently not, since Sprint’s WiFi Calling works on iPhone 6 models, as well as the older 5S and 5C. You just have to make sure the iOS software is updated to v8.3 or later. Sprint supports WiFi Calling on Androids, too. It works on the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, Galaxy S4 with Sprint Spark (but not the original S4), Galaxy S5 and S6, HTC One M8/M9, LG G3/G4, and I'm sure there are many others as well. If you have an Android phone, Sprint advises you to check its settings for WiFi Calling compatibility.
T-mobile also supports both iPhone and Android. Their website lists 23 smartphones that are compatible with WiFi Calling.
Second, you have to enable WiFi Calling; it’s not turned on by default. T-mobile’s instructional videos explain the process, which seems rather cumbersome. The Android video mentions that it may take “one or two minutes” for WiFi Calling to configure itself after you connect to a WiFi network.
And surprisingly, WiFi Calling is not always free. Roaming charges and international calling rates may apply, of course, but there are other gotchas, too. T-mobile Simple Choice Plans deduct WiFi minutes from subscribers’ monthly allotments. AT&T offers free WiFi voice calls, but text messages “are counted and charged under your existing rate plan.” Both of those are nasty, money-grubbing policies. If you're using WiFi, you're not using the cellular network, and you shouldn't be charged as if you were.
Sprint is the only major carrier with a sane, customer-friendly policy on this. They do not count WiFi Calling traffic “against any minute, text, or data limits on your Sprint plan.” Thank you Sprint, that's as it should be.
AT&T phones will use WiFi Calling only if the AT&T cellular network’s signal is too weak or absent. T-mobile and Sprint allow users to set WiFi Calling as the preferred method when a WiFi connection is available.
Seamless Handoff? Not So Much...
Here's another big difference between the WiFi Calling offered by the major carriers, and the wifi calling offered by Republic Wireless and Project Fi. With Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, WiFi Calling will NOT switch between cellular and WiFi in the middle of a call. Such seamless handoffs ARE possible with Republic Wireless and Project Fi. In practical terms, this means that if you start a call in WiFi mode, then wander into an area where the WiFi signal is weak or gone, your call will be dropped, instead of automatically switching to the carrier's cellular network.
AT&T’s “cellular first” rule makes it crystal-clear that carriers are not offering WiFi Calling to help customers save money. They’re doing it mainly to fill gaps in their networks’ coverage, particularly in the depths of office buildings where cellular signals are weak but WiFi is ubiquitous. WiFi Calling won’t reduce your monthly carrier bill by a penny, but it may help you talk and text more for the same price.
In contrast, Republic Wireless and Project Fi refund money to customers who don’t use all of the cellular data they purchase. The average Republic Wireless Refund Plan subscriber paid just $13.82 in August for unlimited talk and text, plus an average of 250 MB of cellular data use.
Do you think WiFi Calling is a feature that would be helpful to you? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 15 Oct 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free WiFi Calling On Major Carriers (Posted: 15 Oct 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved