Ruckus, Devicescape, others see Wi-Fi calling as next big frontier

Momentum for Wi-Fi calling among wireless operators continues to build, and it's making players in the Wi-Fi market more bullish than ever.

Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo said during the company's third-quarter conference call that support for Wi-Fi calling is helping fuel Ruckus' "Wi-Fi first" movement as more and more mobile devices automatically sign onto Wi-Fi first, and fall back to 3G or LTE only if Wi-Fi connectivity is not available or usable.

"We believe widespread industry support for Wi-Fi calling is increasing among large MSOs and MNOs, as well as upstart challengers," she said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

Asked by an analyst to elaborate, she said she believes it's a long-term trend. "Wi-Fi calling is definitely going to be a game changer in terms of service provider business models," she said. "Basically if you look at what T-Mobile is doing, for example, we think that other operators are going to have to look at what they are doing."

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) gets a lot of credit for kicking off the trend. It was the first U.S. carrier to say it would support Wi-Fi calling for the iPhone. The "uncarrier" has offered Wi-Fi calling for free since May 2011 and in 2007 debuted its [email protected] Wi-Fi calling service. It used its "uncarrier 7.0" event in San Francisco in September to make another big push for Wi-Fi calling.

Sprint (NYSE: S) launched a Wi-Fi calling service for its Android smartphones in February, and more recently, Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) joined the Wi-Fi fray, with top executives from both Verizon Communications and AT&T saying their networks will support Wi-Fi calling in 2015.

Players in the Wi-Fi calling space also give credit to that one big player: Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), saying interest really picked up when Apple said it would add support for Wi-Fi calling with its iOS 8 software update. Prior to that, efforts were made to support it in Android, but having Apple's support gave it a significant bump.

This week, Devicescape, which helps operators integrate Wi-Fi and cellular together, announced that Open Mobile, an LTE operator in Puerto Rico, is deploying the Devicescape Service Platform (DSP). Using Devicescape's solution, Open Mobile will be able to manage the movement of its customers between the cellular network and private, public and carrier Wi-Fi using sophisticated policy controls. Devicescape has a curated virtual network of more than 20 million amenity Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide.

The company has announced deals with about 12 operators. In the U.S., the company has arrangements with U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) and Republic Wireless, for example, and it's expanding in Europe and now with Open Mobile, into Latin America.

Of course, Wi-Fi calling has been around for a while. "The distinction now is it feels like it's going mainstream. So we're extremely positive about it. It represents our philosophy, but I think it's interesting because it's actually the final frontier for Wi-Fi," Dave Fraser, CEO of Devicescape, told FierceWirelessTech.

"Being able to make voice calls over Wi-Fi is the final thing that you weren't able to do... Your data worked over Wi-Fi the same as it did over cellular, all your apps worked the same, but making a voice call never worked. You had to use an over-the-top application like Skype. Now with this being completely seamless, you can do everything on Wi-Fi that you can do on cellular, and it's also waking up all the large operators. They're looking now at how Wi-Fi can be combined with their traditional network, so it's a very good sign of things to come, and we are wonderfully enthusiastic about it."

In September, Taqua acquired partner Kineto Wireless to more seamlessly deliver voice over Wi-Fi and voice over LTE solutions to operators. At that time, Taqua CMO Ken Kolderup told FierceWireless that during the prior 12-18 months, both companies saw a strong resurgence in carrier interest in Wi-Fi calling. Of course, that interest picked up steam after Apple said it would add support for Wi-Fi calling with its iOS 8 software update.

For more:
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript
- see this press release

Related articles:
Verizon Wireless plans to launch Wi-Fi calling in mid-2015
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T-Mobile pushes Wi-Fi-calling, texting, debuts proprietary 'Cellspot' personal cell tower
Taqua acquires partner Kineto Wireless to strengthen Wi-Fi calling play
T-Mobile stands alone, for now, in pledge to offer iPhone Wi-Fi calling
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Devicescape CEO in favor of Hotspot 2.0, but says it's just a 'baby step'