What is Wi-Fi Calling?


One of the most desired mobile wireless plan features is Wi-Fi Calling.

Wi-Fi calling lets you make and receive calls as well as send and receive texts using using your Wi-Fi internet connection rather than the wireless cellular network. Use Wi-Fi calling for calls and texts at times when your phone has access to Wi-Fi internet but poor or no cellular signal.

Why Use Wi-Fi Calling

Your smartphone wirelessly communicates with your wireless companies’ cell towers. At some times and some places there is little or no cellular signal. We have all at some point been unable to call or text because our phone only have “one bar” or “No Service”…

But there are times when we have Wi-Fi internet even though we have no cellular service. For example, some people have Wi-Fi at home, but poor cellular service. If you work in an office building you may have Wi-Fi but little or no cell signal. Other times you may be traveling outside the US and have access to Wi-Fi but not cellular service at all. With Wi-Fi calling, you’ll have talk and text using your internet connection, without a cellular connection. Your calls and texts will work with your US phone number just like they do at home (except you’ll need to be on Wi-Fi)

How Does Wi-Fi calling work

To use Wi-Fi calling, both your phone and your wireless plan will need to have Wi-Fi calling. Typically, you’ll enable it in your phone’s settings. Depending on your wireless company, you may need to enable Wi-Fi calling on your account. When you first set up Wi-Fi calling, you’ll need to provide your address. This is used for E911 emergency services. When your phone is connected to a cell tower, responders have access to your approximate location based on the cell tower your phone is using. When you are connected to Wi-Fi however, they don’t know your location. That’s why you need to set it.

Once Wi-Fi calling is turned on, your phone and wireless company will route your calls and text messages over the Internet rather than the cellular network.

You may however find that picture messages and group text messages do not work.

Setting Up Wi-Fi calling

For iPhone, you can turn on WiFi calling in Settings. Check Settings > Cellular Wi-Fi calling > Wi-Fi Calling on this iPhone . After you turn on Wi-Fi calling, you’ll need to confirm the prompt to enable it. Depending on your wireless company, you may be asked for additional information.

On my Android phone, you can turn on Wi-Fi calling in Settings > Mobile Network > Advanced > Wi-Fi calling or in Phone > Settings > Calls > Wi-Fi calling . My Android phone is a Google Pixel 3. The settings on your Samsung or other Android phone may be different.

How do I know my Wi-Fi calling is working

Once Wi-Fi calling is turned on, you should see a status bar indicator showing you that Wi-Fi calling is enabled.

What if Wi-Fi Calling Isn’t Working..

Sometimes when you enable Wi-Fi calling you’ll need to wait a short period of time before it starts working. Your phone will of course need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network. One trick I’ve used to try and get my phones to start using Wi-Fi calling is to turn on Airplane mode and then enable Wi-Fi. Airplane mode will prevent your phone from using the cellular network. Toggle Airplane mode and Wi-Fi off and on as need for every minute or so. This seems to sometimes force Wi-Fi calling to start working.

Other issues

One issue with Wi-Fi calling is handoff. Handoff is when you phone moves between the cellular network and your Wi-Fi network. You phone should automatically switch between your Wi-Fi network and the cellular network without any impact to your calls.

For example, imagine you are on a call as you come home from work. When you walk into your home, your phone switches from the cellular network to your home wi-fi. Most people have their phone set up to work this way. When Wi-Fi calling is turned on, your phone may try to switch the call from the cellular network to your Wi-Fi. That’s the handoff. Ideally, you should know or care that your phone does this. Sometimes however it doesn’t work and your call might be disconnected or you may notice drop outs.

Handoff works in the other direction too. Imagine you are at home and make a call and your phone uses Wi-Fi calling. You head out of the house while still on your call. your phone should handoff the call from your Wi-Fi network to the cellular network.

One other thing to keep in mind is dead spots with your home Wi-Fi. Some people may find that there home or office Wi-Fi has dead spots where the signal is poor or have no signal at all. If this is the case, you may find that you drop calls at home with Wi-Fi calling. I’ve experienced this myself. Sometimes I pace through the house while on a call. Sometimes I’ll forget and walk into my porch where the Wi-Fi doesn’t reach. If the phone isn’t able to hand off to the cell network my call drops.

2 Comments

  1. Kim | | Reply

    I do not have cell service at my home but am having to get a Verizon Straight talk phone to work from there, so it will have to be WiFi compatible. Can you advise me on what phones I should look for at this point?

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