WiFi calling is becoming increasingly popular, principally because it’s cheaper than going via a network. Phone companies were largely resistant to this move, both structurally (in terms of infrastructure and market position), and in terms of where they nudged customer behavior. However, they have seen the future it is fully integrated: WiFi systems must be fully embraced in order to meet consumer needs and expectations. There are other advantages: WiFi calling allows providers to offer better coverage without needing so many expensive base stations.
The challenge now is making technological strides in order to manage mixed connectivity, as well as encouraging customers to ‘handoff’ between devices and modes of call delivery and internet connection. In the future, a user making a call and walking through a shopping mall might conceivably drift between service providers and modes of connection, with changes driven by signal strength and cost. Widespread WiFi calling is the first step on the road to fully heterogeneous connectivity (HetNet) that requires little or no intervention by the user. Already, 5G networks treat all the different connections as a single, enormous network. Essentially, WiFi systems are about to become ubiquitous and WiFi calling is just the beginning. Eight billion mobile phone subscriptions are expected by next year, with Ericsson anticipating the number of connected devices to have risen to 50 billion by 2020.
The array of choice for phone and data services may seem overwhelming: VOIP, optical networks, WiFi systems, mobile phones, and the good old landline. IT managers and architects must be expert in the best-fit connectivity and cabling for every aspect of their organisation as well as manage connectivity issues in hardware and software. Different departments, industries and products have different needs. Independent providers, such as CTS cabling, are a growth industry. Specializing in healthcare, government, education and commercial systems requires expertise in all the products and options at different scales of operation across multiple locations. For example the CTS cabling contractor in Phoenix recently equipped and coordinated two major data centers for the City of Phoenix, starting by connecting the two.
HetNet is not yet a seamless reality, and integrated WiFi calling is still very much in its infancy. Dropped calls and cut outs still dog Google’s Project Fi, and not everyone is comfortable with the Apple watch’s handoffs. Security will need to be addressed and many firms will need to consult with specialists about protecting their WiFi networks. Concerns are beginning to surface about the potential health risks of WiFi signals. While these may be unfounded, they will still need to be managed, based on user perception of risk.
On the other hand, users flipping between different provider technologies is more convenient (once all the bugs are ironed out), and cheaper. Ultimately, increased WiFi calling will require fewer base stations, making it cost effective, and more ecologically sound.