Eight months after rolling out WiFi calling for iOS smartphones, AT&T has unveiled the service for Android devices, though it only works with only one Android phone model as the service begins—the year-old LG G4 handset.
The start of AT&T’s WiFi services for Android users was announced by Bill Smith, the president of AT&T Network Operations, in a June 15 post on the AT&T Innovation Space Blog. Customers who use an LG G4 smartphone can immediately begin to use WiFi services to make or receive calls or send and receive text messages, wrote Smith.
To use the service, customers must activate the feature by installing a software update after they receive a notification on their phone that it is available, he wrote.
The WiFi services will be available on additional models of Android smartphones soon, Smith wrote, but no further details were announced about other models that might be included.
Smith did not immediately respond to an email inquiry from eWEEK asking why the year-old G4 was the first phone to get the new service, rather than newer models including the LG G5 or the Samsung Galaxy S7 series.
An AT&T spokesman told eWEEK in an email reply: “In order to maintain consistency and ensure the best customer experience, carriers often roll out services on a device-by-device basis. This is a common practice in the industry. We plan to launch WiFi Calling on additional devices in the future.”
AT&T has been offering WiFi calling on the Apple iPhone SE, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones since last October, according to an earlier eWEEK story.
The iPhone WiFi services were made possible after AT&T received a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission of rules that require accommodations for hearing-impaired customers who rely on teletypewriter (TTY) services. The waiver 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.
Using WiFi calling, AT&T customers will continue to use their existing mobile phone numbers and will be able to make and receive calls as they normally would on the cellular network, as long as they have a compatible device, a postpaid wireless account that is set up for HD Voice and a WiFi Internet connection. No separate app or configuration is needed. There are no additional costs for the service for calls to U.S. phone numbers.
AT&T customers who make a call over WiFi on their U.S. number to another U.S. number get the call free of charge, even if they are making the call from overseas, wrote Smith. Customers can also use WiFi calling in the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as most international countries.
A user’s phone will automatically detect and use WiFi when it determines there is limited or no cell coverage, according to AT&T.
Sprint has been offering WiFi calling services to many of its Android customers since February 2014, according to an earlier eWEEK story. In April 2015, Sprint iPhone users also got the capabilities, as long as they use iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s smartphones.
T-Mobile launched its WiFi calling technology in June 2007, and has been expanding it over time, according to a previous eWEEK report. In September 2014, T-Mobile unveiled home “cellspot” routers that allow customers to make WiFi calls in their homes or businesses, essentially turning the WiFi connection into a cellular tower.