Cellular coverage has continued to expand across the United States of America with the four national carriers claiming coverage of much of the population. However, cellular networks often have areas of poor or missing coverage, such as when underground or in a certain corner of a building. In such occasions, our smartphones may still have an Internet connection thanks to a nearby Wi-Fi network, but this is not the same as a cellular connection. Luckily for customers of three out of the four national carriers, they run a Wi-Fi calling service. This allows customers to handle at least a voice call over a Wi-Fi network rather than requiring cellular service. As part and parcel of the Wi-Fi calling service, the device and network need to be able to hand over the call from the Wi-Fi network back to the cellular network should conditions allow this. These systems use a VoIP (Voice-over-IP) technology, not too dissimilar from VoLTE (Voice-over-LTE) systems. However, customers of the fourth network without a Wi-Fi calling system, Verizon Wireless, have not had access to this service. There is good news for customers with a compatible device as this situation appears about to change.
Verizon Wireless has applied to the FCC to ask to delay the implementation of a teletypewriter service for deaf and hard of hearing people until the end of 2017. Verizon is planning to use a real-time text service (known as RTT) as an alternative to the teletypewriter service (known as TTY) in a similar fashion to AT&T. Whilst AT&T have obtained the necessary waiver from the FCC associated with substituting the RTT service in place of the TTY, neither Sprint for T-Mobile US are believed to have obtained the FCC’s permission. Verizon’s website has been updated showing that Wi-Fi calling will be available “in the future” but at this time has not published an available date; AT&T enabled their Wi-Fi calling feature inside a handful of days of obtaining permission from the FCC.
Unfortunately, at the time of publication, we don’t know what devices will be compatible with the new Verizon Wireless Wi-Fi calling service or when it will be ready. It is possible that Verizon have been working on the technology for some time and are waiting for the FCC to rubberstamp their system and will be able to roll out any necessary software updates quickly. However, it is also possible that Verizon have yet to complete their testing of compatible devices and so customers may have to wait a number of days or weeks before the technology is available.