Ericsson extends Wi-Fi calling capability to non-cellular devices

Ericsson said it is opening a new front in the battle being fought by operators against over-the-top (OTT) voice services by expanding its Wi-Fi calling service to include non-cellular devices including tablet and desktop PCs.

The infrastructure company said its Wi-Fi calling for multi-device service opens new business opportunities for mobile operators by enabling them to offer subscribers access to voice services on any device. In a statement, Ericsson said the customer's devices could be located anywhere in the world, with the service offering them the option of using their non-cellular units or their smartphones to make and receive calls.

Ericsson said one of the main benefits of the service is extending voice coverage into areas where cellular coverage is poor, for example in residential buildings. Operators stand to benefit because the service removes the need for subscribers to rely on OTT voice services in such situations, the company explained.

"While natively integrated Wi-Fi calling in smartphones has been commercially available for some time, both consumers and operators can benefit from extending this functionality to multiple devices," said Anders Olin, head of product area Network Functions at Ericsson.

The company predicted that the first operators would launch Wi-Fi calling for multi-device services in the final months of 2015. It said the service has been added to its existing Wi-Fi calling product.

Ericsson's focus on Wi-Fi calling comes as a growing number of European operators launch such services.

Vodafone UK was the most recent to announce the launch of a Wi-Fi calling service, with plans to deploy the functionality in the coming weeks. However, the operator has yet to confirm which devices the service will be available on, and noted that the service will only be available on selected tariffs.

The operator's UK rivals EE and Three UK are also offering Wi-Fi calling services, albeit that the latter offers the service as a mobile app that may not be regarded by rivals as a true Wi-Fi call service.

In addition, Swisscom recently said it was the first in Europe to combine VoLTE with Wi-Fi calling to combat weak mobile signals in heavily insulated buildings.

Telenor Sweden is also planning to launch Wi-Fi calling: the company included the functionality in a network upgrade deal awarded to Ericsson in August.

For more:
- see this Ericsson announcement

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