VoWi-Fi stands for Voice over Wi-Fi which uses IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs to carry VoIP traffic. It is a complementary service that can be used with VoLTE. VoWi-Fi technology enables users to make outgoing calls even where there is poor cellular connectivity. It is designed to plug indoor network gaps as telecom operators find it increasingly challenging to get approvals for site approvals and Right of Way (RoW) in residential areas.
Airtel and Jio’s VoWi-Fi bid
Airtel has been testing the services for some time now and select customers and Airtel employees have been using the solution for a couple of months as part of the beta. It is planning to launch VoWi-Fi in December 2019. Jio, on the other hand, for instance, has been testing the service in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala, and may look at launching the service commercially soon. As per reports, state-run BSNL is also running trials in various circles.
Benefits with an introduction to VoWi-Fi
VoWi-Fi addresses problems of insufficient coverage, especially indoors where even with the VoLTE. Analysts are of the view that telcos can attract more subscribers using VoWi-Fi or retain subscribers by offering better indoor calling experience. In addition, they would come up with competitive packages to increase revenue and competitiveness.
Telcos to counter OTT apps
Telcos can counter over-the-top or OTT apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, WeChat that offer free app-to-app calling using data. Users typically resort to these services in the absence of good network coverage indoors to make calls.
Handsets: VoWi-Fi capability must
The service can only be used, once available, on smartphones that offer the capability. Several handset vendors like Apple, OnePlus, Xiaomi and Samsung have pushed software updates to enable VoWi-Fi on their smartphones in India lately.
How can operators deploy VoWi-Fi
There are two primary options for the deployment of VoWi-Fi in a mobile network. The most commonly known deployment method is by using the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) core to integrate with the WiFi radio network via an ePDG access gateway, as per a study by NewNet whitepaper. This method is also described in the GSMA IR.51 profile
Another less commonly applied method, as per the same whietpaper, is by utilizing IR.92 best effort VoIP technology from the RCS specifications. In this case an RCS (Rich Communication Services) platform is used to enable the VoWi-Fi service in the mobile network.
Service providers have no control over the quality of a WiFi network, therefore they may face challenges to troubleshoot WiFi issues. Experts reckon that this issue can be overcome by making use of an app that can monitor WiFi network quality and revoke service when below thresholds.