Ericsson extends Wi-Fi calling to tablets, PCs

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) is extending its Wi-Fi calling offering to more types of devices, like tablets and personal computers, in such a way that the Swedish vendor says will make adding coverage faster and less expensive for operators.

Ericsson last week introduced the addition of the new functionality, which it refers to as Wi-Fi calling for multi-device, to the existing Ericsson Wi-Fi calling solution. With Wi-Fi calling for multi-device, consumers can make regular voice calls on their personal devices at different Wi-Fi access points anywhere in the world. For operators, it's a way to extend voice calling support in areas that have poor cellular coverage rather than trying to address those areas with solutions like femtocells.

"In addition, consumers are no longer forced to rely on over-the-top voice services over Wi-Fi access," Ericsson said in announcing the new feature. "Wi-Fi calling for multi-device is integrated natively in devices that support this functionality, meaning that consumers can enjoy an easy-to-use and intuitive service."

Inside The Mobile Network raises the question about the utility for a user: Why not just use Skype, Whatsapp or a similar app when making a call over WiFi? The biggest argument in favor is probably that with native device integration, a user can make and take a call with the same ID from a Wi-Fi-only tablet as from a smartphone with a SIM.

"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," Anders Olin, head of Product Area Network Functions at Ericsson, said in the press release.  

Ericsson says its offering comprises product support in Evolved Packet Core (EPC), IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), User Data Management (UDM) and OSS/BSS, as well as system integration services. The functionality is verified and tested end-to-end toward device brands that support the service.

The vendor expects the first operators will commercially launch Wi-Fi calling for multi-device services later this year. Ericsson notes that it supported the world's first commercial Wi-Fi calling launch and has since supported numerous operators in launching native Wi-Fi calling for smartphones. In the U.S., T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has offered Wi-Fi calling since 2007 and by August of this year, it was seeing up to 12 million Wi-Fi calls being made on its network every day.

Will this feature make mobile operators more competitive with the "Wi-Fi first" operators out there, like Scratch Wireless, FreedomPop and Republic Wireless? Jim Mulcahy, general manager at Republic Wireless, told FierceWirelessTech that the short answer is "no." Ericsson's solution is a standards-based implementation, similar to T-Mobile. While there are benefits to such an approach for operators, "in our tests the quality isn't close to our solution," he said, adding that for seamless handoff between Wi-Fi and cellular, you need to be in a VoLTE handset.

Republic Wireless has put in considerable time and effort into perfecting handoffs and conducts trials with select customers to work on products and services before commercial launch.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless:Europe article
- see this release

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