VoIP is an important technology that could underpin how we use our mobile devices for voice communications going forwards. VoIP stands for "voice over IP," in other words it's a way of talking over an Internet connection. This technology is very much a part of VoLTE (voice over LTE) technology, which carriers are using to augment and eventually to replace traditional voice channels in existing 2G and 3G networks. VoIP technology may also be used to transfer voice conversations over a fixed line or WiFi Internet connection: T-Mobile US appear to be testing a VoIP service using Bright House Networks' Passpoint-capable WiFi network, which consists of around 34,000 public WiFi hotspots in and around Tampa and Orlando. The Passpoint WiFi standard is a way of seamlessly logging into WiFi hotspots. Passpoint is also known as Hotspot 2.0 and is a technology compliant with a new standard from the Wireless Broadband Alliance and Wi-Fi Alliance. Passpoint will simplify the customer process of using WiFi hotspots and allows T-Mobile to extend coverage across WiFi routers, to include calls, messages and of course data. The information was discovered via documents on T-Mobile US' website and appear to show that the company is setting up a test for 50,000 customers and that any usage over the WiFi network will not count towards customers' allowances.
The T-Mobile VoLTE service will work over the Passpoint hotspots during the trial: it cautions that "If you are not using VoLTE, you will experience dropped calls when transitioning from the T-Mobile network to Wi-Fi and vice-versa." The test will include several different smartphones including the iPhone 5, 5S and 6, plus current HTC, Samsung and LG Android devices. In theory, if the Passpoint service and VoIP networking technologies are working as designed, it should be good news for customers. Modern smartphones use less battery over a WiFi network than a data connection so theoretically, devices could show better battery life although it is debatable as to if customers would see a noticeable difference unless they live or work in an area of poor coverage.
Whilst the test itself is an important check to make sure that Passpoint and the Bright House Networks systems are compatible, this could signify the start of something bigger for T-Mobile. The US carrier has already said that it is happy to work with US cable operators for commercial operations. This test with Bright House could be the first deal struck up between T-Mobile and a cable WiFi operator, especially one that is a part of the CableWiFi Alliance. It would be beneficial for T-Mobile to tap into the CableWiFi Alliance, especially as the Passpoint standard is very likely to be adopted by the other members (and indeed, Comcast and TWC have already hinted that they are going to support Passpoint).