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Verizon Petitions FCC Seeking TTY Waiver For Wi-Fi Calling

October 26, 2015 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

Whilst granting AT&T’s request for a temporary waiver of its TTY (Tele Typewriter) requirements for Wi-Fi calling, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), earlier this month, invited “requests from similarly situated providers seeking a similar waiver of the TTY requirements”, saying, “comparable waivers may be granted to other similarly situated applicants that meet the necessary criteria for waiver relief and commit to complying with the conditions stated herein”. The country’s largest wireless carrier, Verizon Communications, is now responding to that invitation from the federal telecom regulator by submitting a petition requesting the FCC to grant it a waiver from TTY requirements, so as to help it offer Wi-Fi calling services on its network, under the exact same terms and conditions as applicable to AT&T.

In an apparent potshot at AT&T however, Verizon asserted that “neither the existing rules nor the AT&T Waiver Order require such a waiver”. It went on to say that it is doing so only “out of an abundance of caution”. It bears mentioning that AT&T had accused T-Mobile and Sprint of violating FCC regulations, when it complained to the regulator earlier this year about their Wi-Fi calling services not conforming to the FCC’s TTY requirements. It was AT&T’s contention that the two carriers are in violation of federal regulations by introducing Wi-Fi calling without a formal waiver of TTY requirements from the regulator.

For the uninitiated, TTY, or Tele Typewriter, is an accessibility feature designed to help the audibly-challenged to communicate over a regular phone call by typing their message on the phone keyboard and have that message relayed through to the caller at the other end of the line in real time. However, the feature apparently is incompatible with VoIP services for the most part, and AT&T has been lobbying and petitioning the FCC to replace the decades-old system with RTT (Real Time Text) as a modern alternative accessibility solution for the audibly challenged, claiming practical challenges in reliably implementing TTY over IP-enabled Wi-Fi calling services. T-Mobile and Sprint meanwhile, have already been offering Wi-Fi calling services on their networks for a while now, allegedly in violation of the FCC’s requirements that the TTY accessibility feature needs to be enabled at all times for both wireline as well as wireless communication.

As mentioned already, AT&T was granted a temporary waiver earlier this month by the regulator, meaning the carrier is now free to implement Wi-Fi calling on its network. However, it wasn’t before the carrier went public with its grievances against the FCC for allegedly sitting on its petition for months, without acting on it one way or another. Even after the FCC granted AT&T its wish, the carrier seemed less than impressed with the regulator for having not taken any action against T-Mobile and Sprint for not having gone through the official channels before starting their Wi-Fi calling services. As for Verizon, it already offers VoIP services on iPhones, but uses an in-house app for the same, rather than using true Wi-Fi calling, which is platform-agnostic, whereby, the call seamlessly switches over to Wi-Fi in case of a weak or unavailable cellular signal. With the latest developments, Verizon seems ready to launch true Wi-Fi calling on its network, once the waiver comes through from the FCC.