Sprint using technology from Kineto, Taqua in new Wi-Fi calling service

BARCELONA, Spain--Kineto and Taqua announced that their respective technologies will play starring roles in Sprint's (NYSE:S) new Wi-Fi calling service, which is leveraging the growing ubiquity of Wi-Fi in homes and offices to bring its voice and messaging services indoors.

Kineto's Smart Wi-Fi client will enable Sprint subscribers to use their voice and messaging services over existing home, office and public Wi-Fi networks. The service will also rely upon technology from Taqua, whose virtual mobile core system enables a handset to select between Wi-Fi and cellular, using the strongest signal for voice calls as well as messaging.

Kineto's Smart Wi-Fi solution consists of smartphone client software that enables mobile operators with IMS-based core voice networks to extend their voice and messaging services out over the Internet and Wi-Fi. In the case of Sprint, an over-the-air update is initially going out to Samsung Mega and Galaxy S4 mini devices on its network. The operator intends to add Wi-Fi calling support to more devices via OTA updates in the coming months.

In an interview at the Mobile World Congress here, Kineto CMO Ken Kolderup said Wi-Fi calling is coming back into play as operators realize that home and office femtocells are not suited for a mass market coverage play due to cost and complexity of deployment. Sprint, in fact, has been one of the more aggressive carriers when it comes to deploying femtocells to improve indoor home and office coverage for its customers, and now is adding Wi-Fi calling as another tool in its chest.

"The femto hype cycle took the wind out of our sails," Kolderup told FierceWirelessTech. When the home femto market failed to materialize in a ubiquitous manner, operators started looking for other options, leading some to reconsider how they might "turn Wi-Fi into a femtocell" to gain the benefits of indoor coverage for voice services.

There are also a number of other trends making the time riper than before for Wi-Fi calling, Kolderup said. For one thing, many operators who considered Wi-Fi the enemy of their cellular data services even just 18 months ago are now looking to it as a coverage and capacity savior.

Not only that, a majority of homes in the United States have Wi-Fi, with Strategy Analytics estimating Wi-Fi is installed in nearly two-thirds of all U.S. households. Further, many people already have their smartphones set up to automatically jump onto their home Wi-Fi networks when available. A recent Deloitte study indicated that nearly two-thirds of all U.S. smartphone users prefer to connect to Wi-Fi for accessing the Internet.

In addition, the mobile network voice core has begun transitioning from circuit-switched to packet. For that reason, Kolderup contends Wi-Fi calling is set to become "the lead use case" for voice over LTE (VoLTE).

Kolderup also provided a brief update regarding Kineto's Smart Communication initiative, which involves a white label smartphone application that helps mobile operators address the threat from over-the-top providers. The app entered operator trials in September 2013 and there is one pilot now in Europe.

For more:
- see this Kineto release
- see this Taqua release

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