Wi-Fi-first service provider Republic Wireless kicked off a several week initiative, which it is calling Project Salsa, to test in-call two-way handover between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
The Republic Wireless Moto X/2nd Generation WiFi smartphone.
Specifically, Republic Wireless is testing its technology to seamlessly hand over cellular circuit-switched calls to the Wi-Fi network when possible. The trial will include several thousand customers who voluntarily opt into the company's Republic Labs initiative, which is designed to directly involve Republic customers in research and development before products and/or services are commercially launched.
"It's simple: The more Wi-Fi you use to power your smartphone, the more coverage you have and the more we enable you to save," said Jon Schniepp, senior vice president of product management at Republic Wireless, in a press release. "We believe Wi-Fi calling should work just as well, if not better, than a cellular only experience. Customers should not have to think about what network they are on--their phone should just work."
Schniepp added: "We are technical innovators at heart, determined to drive forward an industry leading Wi-Fi calling experience. Seamless should be seamless. That means seamless connectivity back and forth between all networks. Regardless of network type. Regardless of carrier. Regardless of what network the call originated on. Without launching an app or airplane mode to access a Wi-Fi radio. We believe Wi-Fi calling should work exactly the same as the mobile network, meaning you may not even notice you're actually using a Wi-Fi network rather than the mobile one--although with Republic Wireless, you do get an icon in the status bar alerting you to the fact."
Republic Wireless, which uses Sprint's (NYSE: S) cellular network when Wi-Fi coverage isn't available, has been working to refine and improve the Wi-Fi-first calling and handover experience for years, acquiring some 25 patents related to the processes. In November 2013, it introduced the first-generation Moto X device and what it deemed "seamless" handover between Wi-Fi to cellular using an "intelligent predictive algorithm" that can determine, based on factors such as location, jitter and packet loss, when a call is starting to drop on Wi-Fi. The service then anchors the call in the cloud and in milliseconds is able to transfer it over to cellular service.
More recently, the company said it has been building out its systems and testing two-way cellular-to-Wi-Fi handover algorithms internally for almost a year. While the mechanics of a cellular-to-Wi-Fi handover are similar to Wi-Fi-to-cellular handover, the triggering of such a handover requires different considerations. "Republic endeavors to ensure that the WiFi network will be capable of handling the call, and that calls won't constantly flip-flop between networks," the company said in its release.
Schniepp told FierceWireless earlier this month that the company was not seeing a big impact on its business after Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) launched its Project Fi MVNO, which uses Wi-Fi hotspots for calling and data in addition to cellular connections from Sprint and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS).
Barring any major issues or necessary overhaul from engineering, Republic Wireless says customers can expect cell-to-Wi-Fi handover to be generally available by September.
- see this release
- see this CNET article
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