Wifi calling to play major role for coverage, says WBA

29 June 2016 | Jason McGee-Abe

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) has outlined the opportunities Wifi calling presents for mobile operators, mobile broadband services and consumers.

In its Wifi Calling: Opportunities and Challenges towards 5G whitepaper, published today, the WBA stresses the “significant role Wifi calling can play” in addressing industry issues such as coverage, CapEx and OpEx savings to customer retention.

Wifi calling also enables Multiple System Operators (MSOs) to leverage Wifi networks to offer their wireless services. VoWifi will be a key component of 5G to deliver converged services over any access networks and also complements VoLTE as it uses the same IMS core and reuses VoLTE investment and devices.

“Interest in Wifi calling is rapidly growing due to changing market dynamics, customer expectations and VoLTE deployment. It’s increasingly becoming clear that it is no longer a case of if operators will deploy Wifi calling, it’s a matter of when,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

“There is therefore an enormous opportunity for mobile operators to capitalize on hundreds of millions of readily available Wifi access points to offer Wifi calling service and to provide the coverage that customers increasingly expect. With our expertise and experience, we want to help create best practices and ultimately drive the next wireless experience for people all around the world.”

The WBA’s mission is to “champion the development of the converged wireless broadband ecosystem through seamless, secure and interoperable unlicensed wireless broadband services for delivering outstanding user experience”.

While 80% of voice calls take place indoors, poor indoor cellular coverage is cited as the top complaint by customers, the WBA sees Wifi calling as an opportunity which can offer coverage extension when cellular network signals cannot reach the customer, indoors and elsewhere. “It can also act more efficiently than its more expensive counterpoints, like small cells and DAS, to deliver a ‘Universal Wireless Service’ to consumers that have access to Wifi networks,” the alliance adds.

The WBA will be initiating the development of an end-to-end Wifi calling specification, as well as standards, certification and trials for the industry, to enable operators to deliver a scalable, reliable and standard-based solution.

The WBA Board includes AT&T, Boingo Wireless, BT, China Telecom, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Intel, KT Corporation, Liberty Global, NTT DOCOMO, Orange and Ruckus Wireless.