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Managed WiFi Solutions for MDU / MTU, Hotel, Assisted Living, & Restaurants

Verizon enables WiFi calling… with a few caveats

 

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Verizon Messages App: Get it on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/message+/id621469412?mt=8

Verizon has jumped on the WiFi calling bandwagon.  In an effort to keep up with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, Verizon has enabled WiFi calling for it’s customers via it’s Verizon Messages app.  Verizon’s solution, which seems to be a temporary one until VZ does the “technological work to make WiFi calling available” across it’s network, sits somewhere in between WiFi calling that is native to the phone and OTT apps like Skype and Viber.  The good news about the Verizon Messages WiFi calling solution is that the app does not assign you a different phone number as OTT apps do.  The bad news is that you need to use the app to make voice calls, Verizon customers who use the native dialer on their phone will be making the call over the cellular network.

To use WiFi calling, Verizon customers need to:

  1. Have iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus
  2. Download latest version of Verizon Messages app from App store
  3. Enable advanced calling on iPhone
  4. Enable calling within the Verizon Messages app

AT&T officially enabled WiFi calling across it’s entire network last week after receiving it’s FCC waiver and T-Mobile and Sprint have offered WiFi calling for awhile now.  Verizon CFO, Fran Shammo, said last year that Verizon would enable WiFi calling by the middle of 2015 and Verizon stated earlier this year that they were still on track to enable WiFi calling on their networks by end of 2015.  While it seems clear that Verizon still has some work to do to get WiFi calling working natively for it’s customers, at least the Verizon Messages update will get some of their customers able to use WiFi calling – this shows that VZ is making the effort to get their customers the feature.

Hopefully the public will not have to wait too much longer to have WiFi calling fully enabled on both iOS and Android for all 4 of the top carriers.  When you look at the progress from last fall, it really is huge.  Currently T-Mobile is boasting about 12 million WiFi calls made daily and the adoption of AT&T WiFi calling is sure to skyrocket the WiFi calling numbers in the coming months.  Stay tuned…

AT&T WiFi Calling On Its Way – FCC Grants Waiver Request

AT&T ATandT Store, 2/2015, by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube #ATandT

Image credit: Endgadget.com

Hold on to your seats – AT&T WiFi calling for all AT&T customers is now on the fast track after a brief delay due to AT&T’s petition to the FCC for a waiver for it’s real-time text (RTT) feature.  The FCC requires services to support teletypewriter for hearing-impaired individuals, the RTT feature that AT&T wants to use will not be available until 2016 which is why AT&T needed the petition.  As reported, AT&T launched the feature in Beta and Beta customers were still able to use WiFi Calling during the delay.  Carrier drama has ensued with AT&T calling out both T-Mobile and Sprint for offering WiFi Calling without getting a waiver from the FCC:

We’re grateful the FCC has granted AT&T’s waiver request so we can begin providing Wi-Fi calling. At the same time we are left scratching our heads as to why the FCC still seems intent on excusing the behavior of T-Mobile and Sprint, who have been offering these services without a waiver for quite some time. Instead of initiating enforcement action against them, or at least opening an investigation, the agency has effectively invited them to now apply for similar waivers and implied that their prior flaunting of FCC rules will be ignored. This is exactly what we meant when our letter spoke of concerns about asymmetric regulation. – AT&T Senior VP Jim Cicconi

I have to imagine that T-Mobile is getting a bit of a chuckle out of the AT&T soapbox as T-Mobile is clearly the WiFi Calling pioneer, having offered the service in some form for years now.  The FCC has yet to bring a case against T-Mobile on this topic, so AT&T does appear to have some sour grapes.  There has been speculation as to why AT&T did not elect to deploy the WiFi Calling service. The FCC was not insisting carriers get the waiver for RTT and popular tech sites have pointed out the marketing value in throwing T-Mobile under the bus while appearing to be the carrier to offer WiFi Calling “the right way”.  After all, a good marketing spin might be necessary as T-Mobile is gaining a ton of subscribers with their UnCarrier model.  Green-eyed monster or not, we are thrilled that the AT&T WiFi calling feature will soon be offered to all AT&T subscribers and that AT&T sees the value of WiFi calling – or at least the market demand for it…

WiFi Calling – What Building Owners Need To Know – Part I

For a private webinar on WiFi calling for your property portfolio, click here.

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.

Successful business lady standing with hands foldedSo, 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.

Is your property ready for WiFi calling?

wificallingIt seems like a long time ago, but it was just last year that Apple announced iOS 8 support for WiFi calling and T-Mobile announced it would be the first major carrier to support WiFi calling on the iPhone.  The speculation started almost immediately  – what would the two biggest cellular carriers (AT&T and Verizon) do?  Would they have to support WiFi calling due to market demand? If all the major carriers supported WiFi calling, it would because a real solution to in-building cellular problems.  At Spot On we have long seen that In-Building WiFi would be the most cost effective voice solution for building owners if supported by the four majors and our belief was that if Apple were supporting it, Verizon and AT&T would eventually have to support it.  Despite two quick vague announcements from Verizon and AT&T that they would be supporting WiFi calling “sometime in 2015″, news from both on the topic has been pretty quite.  Until now…

A few days ago, RCR Wireless reported on a June petition by AT&T to the FCC in which AT&T set their 2015 target date to release WiFi calling support.  Despite CEO Ralph De La Vega’s VoWiFi-downplay statement last year that, “we’ll use WiFi calling in 2015, but only as a complement”, the AT&T petition in June had AT&T state, “As these VoIP technologies become the preferred platform for voice services…”.  It seems like AT&T is changing their tune on VoWiFi.

While Verizon has remained a bit more publicly quiet on the topic during the last 8 months, they have previously stated that their launch of VoWiFi “should be available by mid-2015″.  We have also heard through the rumor mill that Verizon is beta testing WiFi calling with a few select customers.

Now.  The real question is: Is your property ready for WiFi calling?   With support from all four major carrier WiFi will be the most cost effective method to providing in-building voice coverage and data for your residents, tenants and customers.  If you need more information on WiFi calling, or an assessment of your property’s wireless needs, please contact me.

AT&T AVP for Antenna Solutions talks In-Building Coverage & Capacity

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This year’s HetNet Expo in Chicago boasted some great speakers including featured speaker Paula Doublin, Assistant Vice President, Antenna Solutions Construction and Engineering for AT&T.  Doublin started her speech by opening up for questions and, not surprisingly, the first question asked was in regards to spending.  What was really interesting, however, was the focus on multi-faceted, well-thought out in-building deployments that address both coverage and capacity issues.  Doublin’s speech seemed to reject the “one solution fits all” approach, even going so far as to say, “I cringe when I hear the word plug and play…there is no such thing” (we agree).

Doublin seems to support exhausting all network options to solve the coverage and capacity problems – hinting that you need all network deployment types, including WiFi and network customization and that it all has to work together to provide a successful in-building solution that provides both coverage AND capacity:

“You’ve got site acquisition, you’ve got power, you’ve got backhaul, you’ve got interoperability, you’ve got alarming and maintenance, you’ve got customer service and you’ve got technical skill. You’ve got to have all of those to deploy a macro. What about a DAS? You’ve got to have it all. What about a Wi-Fi? You’ve got to have it all. What about a small cell? You’ve got to have it all.”

At Spot On Networks, we have been speaking of network customization and customized in-building solutions for a long time.  In regards to cellular coverage the first essential step to getting the problem solved is an exhaustive frequency site survey to determine wher the actual problems are and then build the solution to fit the problem. There simply is no “one size fits all” solution.  Coverage, cost, network management and backhaul capacity (to name a few) all need to be taken into consideration to develop the idea in-building solution.    With 4 of 4 major carriers announcing support for WiFi calling coming in 2015, the complexity of in-building coverage and capacity solutions gets even greater and cost savings really begins to come into play in the MDU/ MTU spaces.

For more information about getting a site survey and frequency plan for your property email: sales@spotonnetworks.com

AT&T and WiFi calling

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A big announcement today from AT&T’s Ralph De La Vega: the carrier will support WiFi calling in 2015. See the story here:  http://www.cnet.com/news/at-t-plans-to-offer-wi-fi-calling-in-2015/

Of course De La Vega tried to downplay the significance with his statement that they “don’t have a burning desire for coverage.” Huh? Perhaps the thousand of building owners and millions of residents of Multi-Dwelling Uni (MDU) without coverage would probably disagree. Or perhaps the dozens of companies in the Distributed Antenna Space (DAS) who make millions installing systems because there’s a coverage issue might disagree. To be fair, much of the DAS work is about handling capacity problems (e.g. a stadium) not coverage problems.

Regardless, this is great news for consumers and comes only weeks after Apple announced iOS8 would support WiFi calling. It is also great news for building owners who might now consider WiFi calling as  the answer to in-building cellular problems. At a fraction of the cost of a a DAS, a WiFi network would handle voice plus data.

All U.S. consumers now need is for Verizon to step up to the plate. But with 3 of the 4 major carriers now supporting it, WiFi calling appears to gaining big momentum.

 

Well We Could’ve Told You That! – TWC says mobile carriers can’t meet data demand

coffee-tabletOn Wednesday, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) released a report stating that mobile carriers are not able to meet subscriber data demands due to the increased data usage from smartphones and tablets.  This is a revelation that, while “news”, isn’t really “new” – today’s mobile data subscribers are well aware of the issues that occur while streaming data (lost and slow connections) and clearly the mobile carriers are aware of the issues too: those once-unlimited data plans are now costing mobile subscribers and arm and a leg just to use their devices the way they were meant to be used.

The TWC report was written by New America Foundation director, Michael Calabrese, who stated:

In short, there is simply not enough exclusively licensed spectrum to meet the rapidly rising demand for wireless data, to sustain a competitive market, and to keep prices at an affordable level.  Major mobile carriers are increasingly coming to grips with this reality”.*

So what does this mean for WiFi?  Well, the mobile subscribers who are well aware of the pain that comes from using the cell networks for their high data usage are going to keep on keepin’ on… using WiFi to watch their movies, surf the ‘net, use apps, etc.  And as for the carriers next move… well we will just have to see.

 

* The views expressed in Michael Calabrese’s report are those of the author and not necessarily those of Time Warner Cable.

 

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