Consumers prefer Wi-Fi calling, survey finds

Wi-Fi calling from Mobile Network Operators is proving hugely popular among consumers, according to an Ericsson survey.

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Spotty indoor cell coverage is becoming less of a problem for consumers. And it's not because of improved mobile networks.

Phone users are lapping-up Wi-Fi calling, a survey says. That's where phone calls are routed over Wi-Fi by the mobile network, as distinct from consumer-installed VoIP-style apps and other tools.

Among other things, the users polled said Wi-Fi calling was more conducive to longer calls than their previous cell-only mobile network experience.

Longer calls

Sixty-one percent of Wi-Fi calling users say they are making longer and more frequent voice calls, according to the study by telco equipment maker Ericsson.

And people particularly like being able to make calls and send texts in places that they were not previously able to, such as inside tricky structures, like their homes; in Wi-Fi-sprouting subways; and on airplanes, the research says.


Less headline-grabbing is that the study corroborated the fondness for IP calling when traveling overseas—something many of us do already, and have been doing for a long time with apps. It's a good way to thwart hotel price-gouging or roaming fees.

Eighty-eight percent of the respondents are "seeking Wi-Fi whenever possible" when traveling, the survey found.

Some travelers polled said they would even drop their app-based VoIP-style calling, presumably such as Skype and Viber, because MNO Wi-Fi calling was so good.

One element that consumers particularly like is the ability to place IP calls using the phone's stock dialer.


The study found that although twice as many traditional smartphone users make voice calls and send texts inside as outside, only 4 out of 10 worldwide are "satisfied" with their indoor experience overall.

Only 3 in 10 liked the "voice call quality, coverage, and reliability."


One issue with MNO Wi-Fi calling that the report doesn't explore, but which was mentioned in the comments of a recent Register article about the Ericsson report, is the potential problem of hand-offs.

When using a cellular connection, you can freely move around. With Wi-Fi calling, the call can be dropped if you move out range of the hosting router.

Not seamless

And if uninterrupted service is a satisfaction driver—users don't like calls getting dropped—then presumably that could become an issue. Consumers will want the calls to be handed-off between Wi-Fi and MNOs seamlessly.

Three in the U.K. and T-Mobile in the U.S. don't hand off, Malcolm Weir, a Register commenter, says.

"If you lose Wi-Fi, the call drops, and if you place the call on the cell network, it will not hand off to Wi-Fi," Weir says.


And why Wi-Fi calling now, just as bandwidth-friendly LTE is kicking in?

The reason is partly that MNO-satisfaction and loyalty is hugely based on network performance. That was discovered in a 2013 Ericsson study.

Hence the interest from MNOs in improving the call experience at all costs.

Plus, they get the user to build-out the network—the user does the work. The report suggests there will be a knock-on effect where users invest more in repeaters and routers for home networks.


The researchers reckon that "smartphone users currently using Wi-Fi calling are generally one-and-a-half times more likely to be loyal advocates of the providers offering the service."

Therefore, in other words, it's here to stay.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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