Wifi calling is a popular topic right now. So what is wifi calling and why would you want to use it?
Wifi calling is a service that allows smartphones to dial and receive phone calls and texts over a Wi-fi connection instead of over the cellular network. All major U.S. carriers and nearly all smartphones support native Wifi calling. That is, no separate app is required. Wifi calling may be billed at a different rate than cell network calling, so check with your carrier for details.
Wifi calling and texting can come in handy in when you’re someplace with weak cellular signal but solid wifi coverage. Many office buildings are a good example. Typically the wifi is good but cell signals may have trouble penetrating the concrete-and-steel exterior walls.
International travelers love wifi calling. If you go trekking in Nepal chances are your phone won’t work with local service, and an international calling plan can be outrageously expensive. But even in Kathmandu the coffee shops have wifi.
What is Wifi Calling?
Let me take this opportunity to clarify. When I refer to wifi calling and wifi texting, I mean your phone’s native capability to send communications via the Internet. Of course Skype, WhatsApp, FBMessenger and other apps allow you to do voice, text and video messaging over the web, and they’re great.
But they require you to download a separate app, and they don’t “hand off” your communication to the cell network if you move out of wifi range like native wifi calling does.
How Does Wifi Calling Work?
All major North American carriers support wifi calling, as do many smaller service providers. Most newer smartphones allow wifi calling, but if you’re not sure about your device check with your carrier.
No special plan or add-on service is needed to use wifi calling, but your calls may count toward your minutes limit even though the traffic is not carried over the cell network. Check with your carrier to be sure.
Naturally you will prefer a fast wifi connection, although wifi calling does not require a lot bandwidth – typically about 1 MB of data per minute for voice calls and about 6-8 MB per minute for video calls. But if you have a slow wifi connection it’s possible you could have quality issues.
Wifi Calling on iPhone
Wifi calling must be turned on for it to work on your phone. So how do you turn on wifi calling? For an iPhone, it’s easy. Go to Settings/Phone and turn on wifi calling. That’s it! When your phone is connected to a wifi network it automatically switches to wifi calling.
Be advised that as of this writing wifi calling is not supported on iPhones using Verizon service. However Verizon has announced it will offer wifi calling to its iPhone customers through Apple’s upcoming iOS 9.3 operating system update.
iPhone users can already take advantage of AT&T wifi calling, as well as wifi calling on Sprint and T-Mobile.
Android wifi Calling
To turn on wifi calling on an Android phone, open your home screen and go to the apps menu. Tap the Settings/Advanced Calling icon to activate wifi calling. It’s that easy. The Big 4 nationwide U.S. carriers all support wifi calling on Android phones.
If your phone is not logged into an available wifi network, it can’t use wifi calling. But once you log in, your phone will recognize that network and switch to wifi calling anytime you’re in range. When you move out of wifi range your phone will automatically switch to the mobile network.
Another perk of wifi calling regardless of your device’s operating system is HD voice. What is HD voice? Basically it’s premium audio quality that’s available when you turn on wifi calling. Many carriers support HD voice. Verizon wifi calling actually requires that you turn on HD voice in order to make a wifi call. With HD voice enabled your call quality will be enhanced as long as the other party also has HD voice activated.
Optimize Your Router QoS
There is another tweak you can make to assure better quality for wifi calls. It involves reshuffling the QoS or Quality of Service settings on your router. Routers handle all of the Internet traffic coming into your home or office and allocate it to your connected devices. All those devices share the same incoming data connection.
That means Netflix, online games and your wifi calls are all competing for available bandwidth. Each router model allocates bandwidth differently. If during peak demand Netflix is sucking up all of the bandwidth, then the quality of your wifi call may suffer.
To fix this, change the QoS setting to prioritize how your router allocates data. You might want to give wifi calls highest bandwidth priority and let Netflix and Call of Duty slide down a notch. It’s up to you.
If you don’t want to mess with your router settings, don’t worry. Many routers now have some form of ‘Smart QoS’ which will prioritize network traffic automatically. Usually the default traffic priority is something like this:
1. Voice 2. Video 3. Traffic from all other apps 4. Background tasks, like print jobs and file downloads
With a little research you can find a router that has intelligent QoS to suit your preferences. Cell carriers also offer routers that have been customized for their specific wifi calling, so contacting your carrier is an option.
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