It was almost a year ago that Apple announced the WiFi calling feature for iPhone and that set off a slurry of wireless chatter: if Apple was investing in WiFi calling development for T-Mobile, market demand would have to push the two majors (AT&T & Verizon) to support it….., right? After all, what iPhone user is willing to forgo an iPhone feature for carrier loyalty (pretty much no one…. perhaps except for some of the lucky few who are still grasping onto an unlimited data plan)? But seriously, Apple has basically dominated and dictated the tech market with the iPhone since 1997… so those of us in the WiFi world were, of course, speculating (hoping) that major carrier support was only months away after the T-mobile announcement. Well, we were almost right….iOS 9 is on pace to offer WiFi calling for AT& T customers and Verizon is still promising WiFi calling by end of 2015… so there you have it: WiFi calling is here.
So, What Does All This Mean For Building Owners?
It mean’s a heck-of-a-lot. First off and most importantly it means that a property-wide WiFi networks will not only provide property-wide data services, but voice coverage as well. The in-building voice problem that has plagued the multifamily/ multitenant industry for years is no quick and inexpensive to solve. WiFi calling means that other voice solutions like DAS, and Small Cell will be pretty much obsolete due to the length of time it takes to deploy, the necessity for carrier approval and the tremendous cost.
That being said, now is the time for building owners to get educated on WiFi calling, what it means and how best to implement it to their portfolio. (For a private webinar on WiFi calling for your company, click here). At Spot On we have been testing dedicated WiFi calling networks as an In-Building voice solution for the last couple of years and have had 3rd party-tested verification that a dedicated WiFi calling network with QOS is not only as good as cellular, but in many cases, call clarity was vastly improved. What is essential here are three things: QOS, Network Architecture and Network Management. In the next few posts we will go over each of these things in detail and why they are so important to a quality VoWiFi network.
WiFi Calling QOS (Quality of Service)
So, what’s all this talk about QOS (quality of service) and voice pack prioritization and how does it affect WiFi calling? Quality of Service is necessary to ensure voice experience. One thing that is very important to remember is that a multi-residential setting and a single-residential setting are not the same when it comes to WiFi (we will get into this more when discussing Network Architecture). Think of a WiFi data network: you are watching a movie on Netflix and you have a poor WiFi connection. What does your movie do when the connection gets slow? It buffers. Really annoying and can certainly put a damper on your movie experience, but once the buffering is complete your movie continues. Voice is very different – signal loss or signal interference (the same that would cause a movie to buffer) can kill a voice call, cause jitter and fade or make a voice completely unintelligible. VoWiFi does not use anywhere near as much bandwidth as data BUT (and it’s a big but), the signal needs to be consistent.
Another scenario: You go to make a WiFi voice call at home, someone else jumps on the router and starts streaming a movie. Again, with data this might cause your Internet surfing to slow, but you would still be connected to the Internet. With voice, the bandwidth hog could literally cause your call to drop by taking all the bandwidth and pulling it for their data streaming.
The way we deal with this in an MDU/ MTU setting is by setting up a dedicated voice network, only for voice calls. We ensure that all voice packets are prioritized and we do this by constantly monitoring the network, making sure that voice comes first and data does not interfere. This network model is also beneficial to building owners who have marketing agreements with cable companies but still want to offer WiFi services throughout their property. Spot On can set up a dedicated WiFi voice network that is for all residents and voice only as well as a data network where residents can subscribe to data services. This allows the property to offer VoWiFi in a bulk WiFi scenario without interfering with cable marketing agreements.
Stay tuned for more…
If you would like to request a private webinar on WiFi calling for your property portfolio, click here and we will get your questions answered.