Earlier this month, AT&T complained to the FCC that Sprint and T-Mobile had enabled Wi-Fi calling support on their wireless networks without obtaining the necessary waivers for teletypewriter (TTY) support for the deaf and hard of hearing. AT&T reasoned that the only reason that it had not yet introduced the feature is because it was patiently awaiting an FCC waiver, while Sprint and T-Mobile were “going rogue” without any oversight.
"Because the commission has not granted AT&T's waiver petition," wrote AT&T legal SVP James Cicconi, "we are not in a position to provide Wi-Fi calling services to our customers even while our competitors provide those services in defiance of the commission's rules."
Earlier this week, the FCC finally granted AT&T the waiver, letting it skirt around the TTY rules; at least until December 31st, 2017. In its place, AT&T will deploy more modern real-time text (RTT) support. But even after getting the go ahead from the FCC, AT&T couldn’t help but stoke the flames again, with Cicconi adding:
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 seemingly does have a point here, but rather than go back and forth about rules and regulations, the company today flipped with switch for Wi-Fi calling support, albeit only for the iPhone 6/6s and iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus running iOS 9. Wi-Fi calling will kick in automatically if:
- You have one of the above supported devices
- You have a postpaid wireless account with HD Voice enabled
- You currently have a limited signal or no cell signal at all
- You are currently connected to a Wi-Fi network
“Wi-Fi Calling works in the background, allowing you to make and receive calls like you would on the cellular network,” wrote AT&T’s Bill Smith in a blog posting. “Since the service is built-in, you have the same telephone number and access to your contacts without having to add them to a separate app. Wi-Fi Calling is easy to set-up and, in most ways, making a call over Wi-Fi is a lot like a regular phone call.”
It’s unfortunate that Wi-Fi calling is only currently enabled for just a select number of iPhones, but we have the feeling that is partially because of the hardware requirements necessary to enable Wi-Fi calling and Apple’s strict software homogeny with iOS. We have the feeling that Wi-Fi calling will soon be extended to Android devices, but the rollout might be a bit staggered as AT&T works with each individual device OEM to enable support.