Rumor Mill: Sprint to soon launch Wi-Fi calling

Sprint is also looking to change advertising agencies
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Sprint (NYSE:S) may soon join T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) in offering first-party Wi-Fi calling on its Android devices, according to the blog Android Central.

The blog, citing training materials it received, reported that Sprint Wi-Fi Calling will be enabled on at least two of Sprint's current Android handsets, the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini and the Galaxy Mega, through maintenance updates. The service will also be installed on new devices running Android 4.2 and above. The blog noted that Wi-Fi calls will not automatically hand off to Sprint's CDMA network for voice calls and vice versa.

A Sprint spokeswoman declined to comment.

To take advantage of Wi-Fi Calling, a customer will need a compatible device, enable the feature through a web interface, http://sprint.com/manage, and begin using it, the blog said, adding that there will not be charge for using Wi-Fi Calling. The training materials indicate that there will be a Wi-Fi Calling toggle in the settings of "approved" Sprint Android devices going forward.

The blog also noted that for Wi-Fi Calling to work, Android Location Services must be turned on, and that the feature will only be a supported within the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Outbound calls over Wi-Fi won't be allowed without a CDMA signal present either, something Sprint claims is for 911 reasons, according to the report.

T-Mobile has offered Wi-Fi calling for free since May 2011. The offering from Sprint is notable in light of the fact that supports multiple MVNOs that have a Wi-Fi-first business model, including Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless.

Meanwhile, Sprint is preparing to conduct a comprehensive review of its advertising agencies, and the review is expected to cover creative, media and digital ads, according to MediaPost. The company spends close to $1 billion on ads annually. 

In a recent guest column for the Nikkei Asian Review, Masayoshi Son, CEO of Sprint parent SoftBank, wrote that Sprint's advertising was not cost-effective, which made him angry. "I directed the Sprint executives to terminate all existing contracts with the company's advertising agencies," he wrote. "We will shortly start from scratch on advertising, with new agents also making proposals."

The change in Sprint's ad agencies appears to be occurring at the same time the carrier is beginning to ramp its Sprint Spark ad push. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said earlier this month that the carrier's tri-mode LTE Sprint Spark service will continue to be rolled out to select markets rather than nationwide. "You'll be seeing Spark-specific messages, marketing plans and what have you on a city-by-city basis," said Hesse.

"At some point in time, we haven't determined when," Sprint will engage in national marketing for Sprint Spark, he continued. But Hesse said the operator has not yet determined the "magic number" of markets or POPs covered that will cause marketing to evolve from a local to a national basis.

For more:
- see this Android Central article
- see this GigaOM article
- see this MediaPost article

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