September 24, 2014
Following the announcement that T-Mobile will offer free in-home WiFi equipment to subscribers as part of its UnCarrier 7.0 launch, market leaders AT&T and Verizon have announced that they will follow suit – next year.
It’s important to note that, for T-Mobile, the offering is an effort to patch up its network performance quality issues. On the other hand, “AT&T doesn’t need to play that game,” according to Ralph de la Vega, the president and CEO of Mobile and Business Solutions at AT&T.*And neither does Verizon.
Instead, WiFi calling (aka Voice-over-WiFi, or VoWiFi) will merely complement other services, such as its existing 3G voice services and promising VoLTE networks, rather than filling any performance holes in their networks.
When mobile data usage dramatically increased earlier this year, carriers were forced to offload data onto WiFi networks. Whereas larger carriers like AT&T and Verizon were able to rely on strong nationwide network (with service plans charging for more cellular data usage), smaller T-Mobile was left with a slew of unsatisfied customers due to weak network performance.
So while VoWiFi could be a game-changer for T-Mobile, whose network could use the help for indoor calling and other network shortcomings, AT&T and Verizon’s VoWiFi offerings will simply be another way for subscribers to connect – which explains why the carriers are in no hurry to implement Voice-over-WiFi.
For other leading U.S. carriers, VoWiFi is also a work-in-progress: Sprint Corp offers WiFi calling, but without handoff and not yet on the iPhone. Meanwhile, some mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) like Scratch Wireless and Republic Wireless offer services that rely entirely on WiFi calling and texting.*
With iOS 8 supporting VoWiFi, experts predict that it could become a standard feature within two years.†
In the meantime, progress seems reminiscent of U.S. carriers’ relatively slow start to VoLTE. It seems that AT&T and Verizon will take their time launching VoWiFi, first ensuring a solid customer experience with no dropped calls.*
* Reedy, Sarah. AT&T to Launch WiFi Calling in 2015, Light Reading. Light Reading.
† Kumparak, Greg. Verizon Will Be Getting iPhone 6-Friendly Wi-Fi Calling In 2015, Tech Crunch. AOL Inc.