In a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday, America’s second largest wireless carrier, AT&T, criticized T-Mobile and Sprint for providing Wi-Fi calling services on their networks without officially applying for waivers from the FCC regulation which stipulates that all voice calling services must support teletypewriter (TTY). In its latest filing, AT&T has not only reiterated its request for a waiver from the aforementioned requirement, but also reminded the FCC that it had also filed a separate request with the regulator back in June to allow real-time text (RTT) in place of TTY. The FCC requires all carriers to support TTY, which 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. AT&T is contending that the FCC should get rid of what the carrier calls an antiquated system, and allow RTT as a modern alternative for those in need of an accessibility feature.
In its filling with the FCC, AT&T wrote, “This past Friday, September 25, was the date on which AT&T intended to introduce Wi-Fi calling services in competition with other competitors in the market, namely T-Mobile and Sprint. Those carriers have been offering Wi-Fi calling services for a significant period of time, well over a year on Android devices and for months on iOS devices. Neither of those carriers has approached the FCC to request a waiver of the TTY rules. Because the commission has not granted AT&T’s waiver petition, we are not in a position to provide Wi-Fi calling services to our customers even while our competitors provide those services in defiance of the commission’s rules”. AT&T further went on to plead its case to the FCC for a waiver from the regulator’s TTY requirements, saying, “AT&T urges the commission to seize this opportunity to grant AT&T’s waiver request without further delay. Doing so will enable AT&T to offer its customers Wi-Fi calling capabilities and correct the asymmetry that today exists between AT&T and its mobile services competitors over remaining in compliance with existing FCC regulations when deploying new services”.
Wi-Fi calling is a relatively new, but interesting feature being offered by some carriers in recent times. It allows for high-quality voice calls over a Wi-Fi network, and is particularly useful in remote places with poor network reception. While Sprint refused to comment on AT&T’s charges, AT&T itself refused to speak to the media about its latest FCC filing. T-Mobile however, said last week that it “supports the growth of services that include letter-by-letter transcription, but does not believe real time text (RTT) is required for Wi-Fi Calling, which we have offered since 2007”. According to the carrier, its Rich Communications Services (RCS) offers ‘near’-real-time talk and text, and is “designed to work across all devices, makers, operating systems and wireless providers”. Which is why, according to T-Mobile, “All carriers, including AT&T, should embrace Rich Communications Services”.