AT&T Complains To FCC About ‘Illegal’ T-Mobile And Sprint Wi-Fi Calling

AT&T is like the one kid at the pool who walks instead of running – and then tries to get everyone else in trouble with the lifeguard. But what else can you do when your competitors are offering Wi-Fi calling and you’re toeing the FCC’s line?

Wi-Fi calling (using your home wireless network or a Wi-Fi hotspot to place phone calls on your mobile phone) has been around for quite some time, but it’s mostly been a perk of wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint. AT&T looked into offering the service too, with an eye towards reeling in more iPhone users who could take advantage of their home networks. But, according to AT&T, it hasn’t been able to get approval from the FCC to take the service live. It’s not that the others received the approval, from AT&T’s perspective: it’s that Sprint and T-Mobile are simply ignoring the FCC’s rules.

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Naturally, AT&T raised the issue with the FCC, reportedly via a letter from AT&T vice president James Cicconi to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. The letter points out that AT&T has been striving to meet a key requirement of Wi-Fi calling, which is teletypewriter (TTY) support. AT&T has been working on a similar service, known as real-time text (RTT), and it asked the FCC for a waiver that would let it substitute RTT for TTY.

If the FCC agrees to the waiver, it would seem to give AT&T the clearance it needs to provide Wi-Fi calling to its customers. AT&T has been waiting since June, however, and is getting understandably antsy. Thus, the letter, which points out that Sprint and T-Mobile don’t have waivers, but have gone on to offer the service anyway.

“This past Friday, September 25, was the date on which AT&T intended to introduce Wi-Fi calling services in competition with other competitors in the market, namely T-Mobile and Sprint,” wrote Cicconi in the letter to FCC chairman Wheeler. “As discussed above, those carriers have been offering Wi-Fi calling services for a significant period of time, well over a year on Android devices and for months on iOS devices. Neither of those carriers has approached the FCC to request a waiver of the TTY rules.”

As you might expect, T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded to a tweet on the subject by The Verge’s Chris Ziegler with his usual flair: “@zpower @WaltBTIG @FCC we didn’t launch wifi we Unleashed it!”

Now we'll see if the FCC blows its whistle or gets back to applying sun lotion.