When high-quality and reliable calls are vital to your business, you’ll want to know your options.
Virtual communication is everywhere, but that wasn’t always the case when services like Skype first appeared. Since then, carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T began adding Wi-Fi calling as part of their services. Apple and Android devices support Wi-Fi calling which allows you to use your phone without using your service provider.
The pandemic also brought a shift to remote working, and businesses of all sizes need to look at how they look at communication with their employees and customers. Wi-Fi calling is an option for high-quality audio communication, but it is important to understand its strengths and limitations to find if it is a good fit for you and your business.
In this guide, we will walk you through what Wi-fi calling is, how it works, what are some pros and cons, and what to consider when choosing your phone service(s).
What is Wi-Fi Calling?
Wi-fi calling can be indistinguishable from a regular phone call. As a user, you would dial a phone number and you’ll have the same features as three-way calling, speakerphone, and muting capabilities.
If we dive deeper and look under the hood, we start seeing the difference between Wi-Fi calling and regular phone calls. Unlike a regular phone call, wi-fi calls don’t go through a traditional telecommunications provider, think of your cellphone providers like Verizon or T-Mobile, the wi-fi calling will be routed to a Wi-Fi network instead. Of course, we know that all service providers sometimes have spotty coverage and that can be a frustrating experience especially when you need to make important calls. Wi-Fi calling can be a great alternative when you want a reliable connection while you’re connected to a strong Wi-Fi signal. When looking at your Wi-Fi setup you will want to make sure you provide proper coverage and don’t create any weak spots in your building. It is important to note that a business-grade wireless access point usually offers around 1,500 sq feet of coverage, but proper overlap of the Wi-Fi signal is crucial for good device roaming. Building materials also plays a major factor in how many access points placement and how many you will be need (Learn more about Wi-Fi Planning).
How it works
Now that you have a high-level understanding of what Wi-Fi calling is, you are probably asking yourself if you may have been using this feature as you already have your mobile device connected to a Wi-Fi network when you make calls. And the answer is most likely “yes.” Wi-Fi calling may be a new(ish) term, but it uses the same technology that Skype popularized years ago, which is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Let’s take a moment to distinguish that when people refer to VoIP, they typically refer to a separate application or platform that usually requires installation or a web browser. It was the rise of VoIP services that made telecommunication carriers act and develop the Wi-Fi calling feature that is now automatically available on your phone. Although you do not need to download an application, you might need to enable a setting on your phone to turn on the feature.
After you enable Wi-Fi calling, you can start dialing and making calls like you normally would. Your phone will automatically identify the strongest network available after you dial and route it through a cellular or Wi-Fi network. When a Wi-Fi call is placed the data traffic is prioritized as best effort providing a good quality call. Essentially, enabling Wi-Fi calling doesn’t mean you’re always going to route your calls through your Wi-Fi network, but it does mean your phone will choose the strongest network to use.
Pros and Cons of Wi-Fi Calling
No need for extra apps: If you have a smartphone, you will have access to this feature, unlike with a VoIP service where you’ll need to download an extra app or software.
Great backup solution: Especially if you have spotty cellular service, Wi-Fi calling can be a great backup plan in case you lose service, and it automatically connects to the strongest signal.
Great for at-home or in-office calling: If you’re close to a Wi-Fi router or access point and are indoors, you will typically benefit from Wi-Fi calling and have a high-quality call.
May not be so reliant on the go: Public wi-fi hotspots are not always available or may not be as reliable as business or home networks.
It can congest your Wi-Fi network: If there are many devices connected to your Wi-Fi network and they are already taking a lot of bandwidth, adding Wi-Fi calling can slow things down for everyone. This means your call quality will suffer as you compete with other users on the network. There are ways to get around this by segmenting your networks, but you might not always have that option when you are out of the office.
Wi-Fi calls can drop when the client device switches from Wi-Fi to cellular or back because information changes when making this transition. When a client device automatically tries to connect to the strongest network, you might run into issues when you are on the move and talking and move outside the Wi-Fi coverage area and your phone tries to connect to your cellular signal.
Some older phones might not support it: Wi-Fi calling is still relatively new, and some older phones may not support it.
What is right for you?
Wi-Fi calling is an excellent feature to take advantage of and can provide a remote workforce with a great alternative to expensive wireless carrier service or serve as a backup when there is spotty service. The EnGenius Cloud features Carrier-Class Wi-Fi settings that can help optimize Wi-Fi calling so that your workforce doesn’t slow down the network with their calls and to prevent disruptions when switching sources while on a call. If your business or office space has good reliable Wi-Fi coverage, it can be the best way to make calls, you just need to turn on the feature on your phone’s settings and start dialing away.
Of course, there are some cases where neither cellular nor Wi-Fi service is great, like in a large outdoor area or indoor warehouses, but communication between employees and customers is still critical. In these cases, you may also want to explore other technologies like those offered with the EnGenius Voice solutions that perform best in long-range environments.
Contact us to learn more about EnGenius Cloud.