Google's Project Fi delivers some lessons about Wi-Fi calling and handoffs

With Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) advancing its Project Fi and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) preparing for the release of iOS 9 and its Continuity calling feature, the time seems right to see what's shaking in terms of Wi-Fi calling. In our latest feature, we take a look at the drivers behind Wi-Fi calling and the progress the industry is making in terms of that good old industry challenge we've come to know as the handoff.

While there's probably always room for improvement in every type of technology out there, progress is being made on the handoff front, if the likes of T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and MVNOs like Republic Wireless are any indication. T-Mobile says it is pioneering seamless handover between its LTE network and any available Wi-Fi connection so calls don't drop between the two.

Republic Wireless -- one of the "Wi-Fi first" MVNOs that want to use Wi-Fi whenever it's available because it saves consumers money and uses technology that already is in many homes and offices -- uses its Republic Labs to refine its processes, including the cellular-back-to-Wi-Fi handoffs. It's racked up some 30 patents in the process of refining its processes. 

Yet while some early reviewers raved about Google's handoffs for its Project Fi service, my own experience, having Project Fi in our house for the past several weeks, indicates that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Dropped calls in the middle of important business calls and failed handoffs would indicate that it's still a work in progress.

Verizon Wireless, which seems to be the last holdout among the big nationwide carriers, isn't revealing its cards when it comes to Wi-Fi calling, and while it has said it would support Wi-Fi calling at some point, COO David Small at a recent investor conference pointed out that the technology has not been perfected in terms of handoffs, and Verizon would rather position its own cellular network over Wi-Fi any day.

Either way you look at it, you've got to believe the industry will tackle and perservere when it comes to Wi-Fi handoffs. Who knows? With all the work Verizon is doing to get LTE to work in unlicensed spectrum like the kind Wi-Fi uses, it might even come around one of these days. In the meantime, check out our latest feature on Wi-Fi calling, and let us know what you think in the comments. --Monica

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