Native WiFi Calling Gaining Ground on OTT Calling

25th of April 2018

Making calls over WiFi is no new thing to us. It’s hard to even remember the days before online video and chat OTT services like Skype and WhatsApp. However, what was once an experience distinct from cell phone calling, requiring separate software and logins is now becoming integrated into standard cellular service, altering how people make their WiFi calls.

The Early Days of Native VoWiFi

Apple’s iPhone started the change. When FaceTime launched 7 years ago, the shift started to happen almost overnight. Like iMessage, if you were connected to WiFi, you could make FaceTime video and voice calls without using your cellular data or voice plan. The benefit to subscribers was immense, considering most people spend the majority of their time connected to WiFi. The only disadvantage of FaceTime and iMessage? It only worked between Apple devices.

Today’s Native VoWiFi

Fast forward to today. Now, calls can be made over WiFi to any other device, be it another cell phone or a landline, just by calling as you would for any call through the device’s native dialer. What does this mean? Gone are the days of WiFi calling’s dependence on OTT apps or the need to have an Apple device! For operators, instead of a threat, WiFi calling actually presents a unique opportunity for real innovation. Plus, if operators implement VoLTE, this offers users a truly seamless handoff from cellular to WiFi calls, presenting an extra incentive to not use OTT apps, as they can remain mobile, even when calls began over WiFi.

Native WiFi Calling vs OTT WiFi Calling

OTT (over-the-top) VoIP WiFi calling is a cloud-based service that requires a separate client and typically does not allow for mobility. Carrier WiFi calling, on the other hand, is integrated with the mobile carrier’s network, uses the native dialer on the handset, and is generally an extension of the mobile subscription plan, and typically includes a seamless mobile experience.

 Native WiFi CallingOTT WiFi Calling
DescriptionUsers’ devices directly access IMS networks to perform voice services with few changes in the core network. Calls will glide from cellular to WiFi and back again without any interruption in service.This is similar to what Skype calling or a voice call over WhatsApp offers, which works great until you leave the WiFi hotspot. Calls will drop as soon as you are out of WiFi range. It is unavoidable for calls to drop since there is no seamless handoff from cellular to WiFi.
Advantages
  • Unified dialing/message interface. No need to fire up a third party app.

  • Voice service continuity can be achieved utilizing the same phone number (seamless handoff).

  • Same QoS maintained as that in VoLTE.

  • Easy set up on the user’s device (just turn on WiFi calling option).

  • Only IMS network remodeling required.
  • Easy to deploy, no IMS or additional network infrastructure necessary

  • From a user's perspective, all he/she needs to do is download the app, register and it’s ready to go.
Limitations
  • An ePDG needs to be in place.

  • Limited user devices support WiFi calling, currently the latest models of iPhone, Samsung, LG, HTC to name a few (this list is naturally going to get bigger over the time)
  • Not a carrier-class voice solution, thus less reliable.

  • Lack of service support

  • QoS not guaranteed (no ownership of customer experience).

  • No general and regulatory services provided. (i.e. Emergency calls).

  • No standards defined.

Native WiFi Calling Benefits

Overall, native WiFi calling can be a win-win solution for both subscribers and operators. According to an Ericsson Consumer Lab study1, the key reasons users are interested in native WiFi calling are those shown in the chart below. Users value the fact that they do not need to download any extra apps or perform any additional logins. They also appreciate that their VoLTE calls get seamlessly handed over once they come in the range of WiFi, and vice versa. But, the bigger drivers are extended coverage and eliminated roaming charges. Gone are the days of going out on the back patio to get a better signal because the inside of your house is a dead zone. Or avoiding calls while traveling abroad for fear of the massive roaming charges you might rack up.  For carriers, these subscriber benefits correspond with distinct business gains, such as reduced CAPEX and OPEX, new revenue streams, competitive advantage, improved customer experience, increased international service, improved quality of experience, and first-mover advantage.

Voip wifi calling

Figure 1: Why Users Find WiFi Calling Appealing

Conclusion: Watch Your Back, OTT!

With all the benefits of native WiFi calling, it’s easy to see why OTT apps are losing their stronghold on the WiFi calling market. It will be interesting to see how the OTT market changes over the next few years to try to remain competitive and relevant!

Learn more about WiFi calling with Alepo’s white paper.

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

Partner and Sales Director

Ryan is intrigued by where telecommunications will go in the next few years. As a Partner and Sales Director, she’s been exposed to many aspects of the industry in different technologies and markets. When she’s not speaking in telecom acronyms, you can find her traveling the world, skiing the Colorado Rockies or doing DIY projects on her home.


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