Verizon accepts FCC's invitation, seeks TTY waiver for VoIP calls

Following rival AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is now asking the FCC for a waiver of text telephony (TTY)-related requirements for its IP-enabled wireless services, and it wants the same conditions granted to AT&T.

In the order granting AT&T the waiver, the FCC specifically invited "requests from similarly situated providers seeking a similar waiver of the TTY requirements," Verizon noted in its petition. Prior to that, AT&T was the only operator that sought a waiver from the rules related to TTY, a technology invented in the 1960s that can't reliably be supported with IP networks.

Verizon says it also offers IP-based advanced calling services that enable VoIP calling and other advanced features, including video calling, that hold great potential for using IP-enabled wireless services and devices for the deaf and hard of hearing.

However, given that TTY support is not achievable for IP-enabled wireless services, Verizon said it has initiated its own effort to develop and deploy successor real-time text (RTT) technology for Verizon customers and services migrating away from digital CMRS networks to IP-enabled services and networks that support features like VoLTE and Voice over Wi-Fi.

In a footnote to the order granting AT&T the waiver, the FCC noted that AT&T has said that various other carriers, including T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) and Sprint (NYSE: S), already have begun to offer VoIP services, something AT&T was holding off doing until it got the waiver. "Given the limitations of TTY technology in a wireless IP network as enumerated in the record of this proceeding, the extent to which such providers are in compliance with our TTY obligations remains unclear," the FCC said. "It would not be appropriate to grant a waiver to such entities without receiving further explanation from such entities about their current and future plans for meeting the accessibility needs of people with communications disabilities in an IP wireless environment."

AT&T's waiver expires Dec. 31, 2017, "or upon the effective date of rules providing for alternative IP-based wireless accessibility solutions, whichever is earlier."

Verizon plans to deploy RTT as a successor technology to TTY because it will work reliably in an IP environment. In the meantime, it's going to inform customers that TTY is not supported on the IP-based services for calls to 911 and tell them about alternative means to reach 911 services.

Verizon started offering Wi-Fi calling on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s or 6s Plus on Oct. 15 via a messaging app that customers can download; customers need to make sure advanced calling is enabled on their devices.

For more:
- see this FCC petition

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