WBA CEO: Wi-Fi calling offers 'enormous opportunity' to mobile operators

Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) CEO Shrikant Shenwai said the case for mobile operators deploying Wi-Fi calling services has become a question of when to rollout rather than if.

In a statement accompanying the WBA's publication of a whitepaper on Wi-Fi calling, Shenwai said the service has become a global phenomenon as operators seek to plug gaps in the coverage of their cellular infrastructure.

"Interest in Wi-Fi calling is rapidly growing due to changing market dynamics, customer expectations and VoLTE deployment," Shenwai explained.

Wi-Fi calling offers an "enormous opportunity for mobile operators to capitalise on hundreds of millions of readily available Wi-Fi access points" to match subscribers' coverage expectations, the CEO added.

The WBA stated that poor cellular coverage remains the biggest complaint by subscribers, and noted that an increase in the number of technologies that use unlicensed spectrum for mobile communications offers new opportunities for operators to address such grievances.

Wi-Fi calling stands out among those unlicensed spectrum technologies because of its efficiency and lower deployment costs relative to rival technologies including small cells and DAS, the association argued. The WBA also predicted that voice-over-Wi-Fi will be a key component of 5G technology in terms of its ability to deliver converged services on any access network. Wi-Fi voice services utilise the same IMS core as voice-over-LTE removing the need for additional investment, the association noted.

Several European operators have already deployed Wi-Fi calling services. For example, Deutsche Telekom last week launched its WLAN Call service.

However, operators are taking different approaches to deploying the service. While Deutsche Telekom, EE, and Vodafone UK have embedded the function directly into smartphones, Three UK and O2 UK are offering the feature via an app.

The WBA said it plans to develop an end-to-end Wi-Fi calling specification along with related standards, certification and trials -- all of which could signal an end to the different approaches currently being taken by operators and help to boost deployment and uptake of the feature.

For more:
- see this WBA announcement

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