Verizon is joining the mobile carrier competition to bring WiFi calling to its customers as it begins rolling out WiFi calling on Dec. 8 to customers using Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge smartphones.
WiFi calling will be available to Verizon customers who activate Verizon's Advanced Calling services, which enable HD Voice capabilities for improved sound quality, on their compatible devices, according to a Dec. 4 announcement by the company. The WiFi calling services will enable customers to use the WiFi in their homes, businesses or in public places to make or receive calls.
The program will only include customers using these two Samsung devices to start, but additional Android phones and Apple iPhone models are expected to be added to the service early in 2016 via software updates, according to Verizon.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones will be the first handsets to get the needed software updates, which are being rolled out in phases.
All WiFi calls made to U.S. phone numbers will be free on Verizon, but calls made to foreign numbers will be billed at international long distance rates, the company stated.
To activate WiFi calling on Android, Verizon customers have to download and install the latest software update for their devices and then turn on the Advanced Calling option on the Settings menu. Once Advanced Calling is enabled, customers can activate WiFi calling.
Calls on Verizon's 4G LTE network are designed to transfer to a known WiFi hotspot when available. Verizon's Advanced Calling capabilities, which arrived about a year ago, are compatible with about 28 smartphone models, while WiFi video calling works with about 21 smartphone models through the service.
WiFi calling capabilities on smartphones have been expanding with major mobile carriers for more than a year, with competitor T-Mobile unveiling similar services in September 2014 for its customers, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The T-Mobile offering was part of the company's WiFi Unleashed initiative, which gave its customers the ability to make mobile calls using WiFi networks almost anywhere around the world and to get free texting, messaging and voice mail services on domestic airline flights that are served by Gogo.
In October, Sprint customers using iPhone 6s and 6s Plus smartphones received WiFi calling capabilities after Apple released its updated iOS 0.1 operating system, which included the function. Back in April, Sprint unveiled WiFi calling capabilities for customers with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s smartphones, but the latest iOS 9.1 update offers the capabilities to more iPhone models and added a shared-number capability. Sprint's WiFi calling lets users get an incoming phone call on one device and take the call on another device, whether it is their iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch or Mac computer. WiFi calling services are provided for free as part of Sprint's calling plans and can be used anywhere there is WiFi. Data used over WiFi networks also does not count against a customer's calling plan.
Sprint originally began offering WiFi calling services to many of its Android customers in February 2014, but Apple iPhone users were left out at that time and didn't have access to the fledgling WiFi calling capabilities. WiFi calls are free to any phone number in the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.
AT&T rolled out WiFi calling for iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 smartphones running iOS 9 earlier in October after receiving a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission for rules that require accommodations for hearing-impaired customers who rely on teletypewriter (TTY) services. The waiver, issued Oct. 6, was required because TTY services don't operate properly over WiFi networks. TTY services under FCC rules must be provided for telecommunications networks. TTY services allow voice communication to be relayed using typed words, rather than by voice. AT&T customers use their existing mobile phone numbers and are able to make and receive calls as they normally would on the cellular network. No separate app or configuration is needed. There are no additional costs for the service for calls to U.S. phone numbers.