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What is WiFi Calling & How to Get it on Your Phone

by on April 02, 2019
in Phones and Mobile, Mobile Apps, Tips & How-Tos :: 37 comments

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Most of us spend time in at least a few places where our phones just don’t work, whether it’s a room or two at home, a favorite basement coffee shop or some other signal-blocked location. That’s where WiFi calling can save the day. Instead of relying on the cellular phone network, WiFi calling and texting use an available WiFi network to place your call over the Internet.

Clearly, if you don’t have a cellular signal or it’s spotty, the ability to make WiFi calls comes in handy. But that isn’t the only reason you’ll want to use WiFi calling.

How much does WiFi calling cost?

WiFi calling doesn't cost anything extra. Carriers treat your WiFi calls as though you were making a regular cellular call from the U.S. So whatever rates and fees apply to your regular cellular calls will also apply to your WiFi calls, including deducting call minute from your monthly allotment if you don't have an unlimited plan.

That means WiFi calling is perfect for overseas travelers because there’s typically no roaming or international charge for making calls or sending texts back home. And many carriers' plans include free calling to Canada and Mexico. Keep in mind, though, that you will be charged an international rate based on your international calling plan, if you call an international line using your U.S.-based smartphone. And, WiFi calling isn’t supported in some countries, including Australia, India, Cuba, Singapore, and China. 

How to make a WiFi call

WiFi calling isn’t automatically enabled on smartphones. To turn yours on, go to the Settings menu. On iPhones go to Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Calling and then toggle on Wi-Fi Calling on This Phone. 

Wi-Fi calling on iOS 12

On Android, you’ll generally find WiFi settings under Settings > Networks & Internet > Mobile network > Advanced > Wi-Fi Calling, where you can then toggle on WiFi calling. You'll find carrier-specific instructions below.

Android 9 Pio Wi-Fi Calling

Once you activate WiFi calling, you dial or text as usual. The routing of your call or text is handled automatically in the background.

Does my carrier offer WiFi calling?

All major cell phone carriers offer WiFi calling, with support for the recent iPhones and Android phones. Here’s the latest on which phones support WiFi calling for each of the major carriers:

Sprint: WiFi calling is available on recent Android devices and iPhones. Check your phone’s settings menu to see if it’s supported. for Android phone, got to Settings and look for the WiFi Calling option. To get device-specific support to set up WiFi calling, go to Device Support, select your phone, scroll to "Calls" and choose "Activate Wi-Fi Calling."  

T-Mobile: All new T-Mobile phones support Wifi calling. To find out if your existing model supports it, go to the Devices page, find your device, select "WiFi" from "browse by categories,"  choose "Calling, Contacts & Calendar," select "Turn on/off Wi-Fi calling" and follow the instructions.

AT&T has 54 devices for sale now that support WiFi Calling, including the latest models from Apple, Samsung, and LG. To find out if your phone supports WiFi calling, go to Device Support, find and select your device, select "View All Tutorials," selection "Calling" and then "Wi-Fi Calling" to view the instructions. If WiFi calling isn't listed, your phone isn't compatible.

Verizon Wireless doesn't have a definitive list, but new Android phones and iPhones should support it. To turn on Wifi calling, follow the directions on Verizon's Wi-Fi Calling FAQs page. 

Of course, if your handset doesn't support Wi-Fi calling, you may be able to find some workarounds. Apps like FaceTime, Skype and WeChat allow you to make voice and video calls over WiFi as well as send text messages.

How WiFi calling compares to cellular

Thanks to the growing popularity of free public WiFi hotspots, you may not need to pay another dime to make a call again. In fact, Cisco VNI predicts global hotspots will increase double from 2018 to 2021, resulting in 254 million hotspots.

But a cheap price tag doesn’t always equate with high quality. Trying to get the best signal for a WiFi call is challenging. Many times, the quality of service is through individual users with a WiFi network, and there is no guarantee there will be enough bandwidth for a high-quality call. Plus, signal strength can diminish as more people attempt to use the same network, such as at hotels, airports or athletic stadiums.

Consumers may have another gripe with WiFi calling service: there may be a 1- or 2-second delay in the conversation. Think of the delay you hear with the echo of the same news broadcast aired on different TVs in your home. If you’re accustomed to receiving an immediate response using traditional phone service, a conversation over WiFi may annoy you.

While it doesn’t make sense for most people to switch to a WiFi-only provider like Scratch Wireless, Wi-Fi calling can make a big difference if you have limited minutes, get poor reception or travel abroad.

Does WiFi calling drain or save your battery?

In poor cellular coverage areas where you have a decent WiFi signal, WiFi calling will help save battery life. In cases where you have low or no cellular signal, you may want to consider turning off cellular to preserve your battery. However, if you are not connected to a WiFi network, leaving on WiFi can drain your battery. 

Updated on 4/27/2019 

[Image credit: woman talking on cellphone in coffee shop via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

Other wifi calling apps

From Gordon Helser on July 24, 2015 :: 2:54 pm

Don’t forget WhatsApp and Viber for wifi calling.  They let you send text, video and recordings as well.  I recommend WhatsApp.

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International calls and use on a cruise ship

From Gordon Helser on July 24, 2015 :: 3:00 pm

WhatsApp is also great for voice calls, text, video between your party on a cruise ship and for international calls, text and video.  On the cruise ship, each person in your party that wants to use WhatsApp needs to be on wifi, which costs money.  Royal Caribbean offers unlimited wifi for a week for about $50. per person on some ships, such as Quantum and Oasis.  And I assume Allure.

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very nice site

From Shahriar Baluch on July 27, 2015 :: 10:58 pm

very nice site   (:

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Groove IP & Vonage

From Ernesto Colina on October 09, 2015 :: 3:24 pm

Don’t waste your time with the “Big Carriers” get any prepaid one, anyone in Walmart will do and for “WiFi” Calling get :

GrooveIP
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gvoip&hl=en

GrooVe IP Lite Free
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.snrblabs.grooveip&hl=en

And if you are smart, use Vonage at home, install “Vonage Extensions” on your Mobile and call Internationally for Free, which BTW, supports WIFI calling.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vonage.MobileExtension&hl=en

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Verizon and iPhone

From Kevin on October 25, 2015 :: 9:34 am

IPhone users: WiFi Texting and Calling is a show stopper for me. When I walk into a building where cell coverage is dead or cellular tower is down, local WiFi is then a logical back up. With Verizon’s terrible choice of launching it’s own, dysfunctional Verizon Message+ App to replace iMessage for WiFi messages and confusing integrated and redundant phone portal (Warning do not load that App), I will no doubt switch to TMobile who seems to be making better mission statements lately and leading the way in logic.

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Funny

From Jimmy Bean on December 10, 2015 :: 1:37 am

Hilarious to mention there is no wifi calling in Syria. No food, no water, war, refuges, terrorists, torture, executions, gunfire and explosions everywhere and NO WiFi calling either??

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Yikes! When I updated the

From Suzanne Kantra on December 10, 2015 :: 12:12 pm

Yikes! When I updated the story, I just looked at the carrier info.

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What's wrong?

From Masum Reza on March 27, 2019 :: 4:56 am

What’s so funny here???...Do you have any idea about them???...you are commenting relying on your soft bed, how can u feel their trouble?...stop nonsense!!!!!!

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You don't understand

From Skeptic on March 27, 2019 :: 5:17 am

@MASUM REZA I don’t think you understand the context. The person is saying it’s funny in an ironic way. They are acknowledging all the bad things going on in Syria and laughing about wifi calling being an issue.

English speakers often say things are funny or “hilarious” when they mean the exact opposite in truth. I could see how a language context barrier could exist here.

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Sprint WiFi Calling is HORRIFIC

From Bo Mathis on February 13, 2016 :: 10:47 am

Don’t be fooled by 3 minutes of clear WiFi Calling using Sprint. You WILL eventually experience drops, garble, and a host of other potentially embarrassing issues. Sprint will of course blame your WiFi network. And in my case, I have FIOS operating at the highest speeds and have set the router to granting the highest QOS priority to WiFi Calling. Forget it.  It’s another POS service from Sprint, added to their long list of empty promises.

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Sprint WiFi calling is awesome

From Jarod Weaver on July 23, 2016 :: 1:47 pm

Let me just start by saying I done some research and fios os a competitor of sprint because it’s owned by Verizon. Don’t forget that. My research and googling led to that Verizon is intentionally making sprint wifi calling not work as it should while connected through their network to try to make you choose them as a carrier. I personally have comcast and my sprint wifi calling is awesome. It lets me make calls for as long as I need it as long as I’m connected to wifi because the only bad thing is it won’t fall back to Sprint’s network. The maximum at one call for my time on wifi calling would be 3 hours.

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It's happened before.

From Burt Daniels on December 22, 2016 :: 4:41 pm

This is definitely a possibility. Verizon could be causing some sort of problems with Sprint’s wi-fi calling on their network.  Similar to how Comcast was slowing down video streams from Netflix customers over their network. Anything is possible.

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I wish wifi calling worked well.

From Skeptic on June 03, 2017 :: 5:57 pm

I was super stoked to have wifi calling. I have sprint and use Comcast Internet. It’s so unreliable that I just have it turned off permanently. It always leads to embarrassing dropped calls and people can’t even hear you when it’s working. Over at least a dozen different wifi connections it has never been consistent in reliability for voice calls. For texting it’s great though.

It’s a great solution when I’m at work in a deep building with spotty service that kills the battery. It allows me to get texts and send them when I might not even have cell service. When I need to make a call I have to manually turn off wifi calling and wait 15 seconds for the phone to pick up the service signal.

After months of giving it yet another try after another at various locations, it always burned me 8/10 times and those few where people could hear me were always short calls less than a minute.

It’s a great idea in theory and I don’t get why it’s so crappy across the board. I’m sure eventually they will figure it out. I understand now why Verizon disables it on their phones, as people ignorant of their settings would associate it with Verizon’s superior service, hurting the brand.

Like people said, I also had issues with it calling people using Verizon, but then again I also had issues calling my wife on the same service plan using the same model phone. So I couldn’t fairly suggest foul play on Verizon from my own observations, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

/rant

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Receiving Calls?

From Lin Psimpsondottir on June 16, 2016 :: 8:49 pm

Calling out is well and good, but receiving them is equally important. Nothing said about that. Is this possible?

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You'll get better "reception" for

From Suzanne Kantra on June 17, 2016 :: 10:28 am

You’ll get better “reception” for incoming calls as well. I’ve received calls in places where there was no cellular service. It works just like you have regular cellular service.

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Is WiFi Calling Secure?

From The Baroness In Oregon on June 17, 2016 :: 9:32 am

WiFi calling can be a great money-saver, but is it secure?  So others can use it, a public WiFi signal is not encrypted. If you are in your own home using your own WiFi for calls and your home WiFi is encrypted, then yes it’s safe.  If you are outside walking around or in a public place and you glom onto a free signal, then you are just as open to your call being overheard or your phone hacked-into as if you were using public WiFi with a tablet or laptop.  Remember, any time you use a public signal you are open to hackers/eavesdroppers, and the more devices using that public signal, the weaker it will be for each user.  This goes for WiFi in hotels, airports, shopping malls, libraries, etc., too.  If you have Comcast internet at home, there may be a second “radio” in the router that provides free WiFi for people within a certain radius of that router.  Mine did, and I called Comcast and made them inactivate that second radio.  All I’m saying is, be careful with free WiFi!

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Carriers encrypt WiFi calls

From Suzanne Kantra on June 17, 2016 :: 10:46 am

When you make a call with your smartphone, the data is encrypted before it’s sent over the network. This is true whether you’re using regular cellular service or WiFi calling over a public WiFi network.

If you’re not using your carrier’s WiFi calling, but rather a calling app, you’ll want to ensure that your calls are being encrypted on your device. Apps like WhatsApp and Skype do encrypt your communication. For others, make sure to check in the app description.

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But.....we're already being spied on,

From Karen on September 20, 2017 :: 1:43 am

But…..we’re already being spied on, eavesdropped on and privacy compromised.

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Google Project Fi

From Jay on June 17, 2016 :: 1:41 pm

Don’t you think everyone should be using a VPN no matter where they are? Project Fi uses WiFi for everything, if WiFi isn’t available while traveling in the US it will switch between Sprint, T-Mobile or Consumer Cellular, for data usage, whichever signal is strongest.
It is also available in the Caribbean. Data costs $10/GB no matter how many GB’s you use.
I’ve been using it on a Nexus 6P/Nexus 9 for about 5 months now and haven’t had any problems.

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Auto Switch?

From Chad on July 01, 2016 :: 11:16 am

When I have wifi calling turned on, is it active anytime there is a wifi signal, or does the phone evaluate which signal is better and use the best signal?

I have poor cell service at my house, so I want to use wifi calling there. But if I am at a coffee shop with spotty wifi but I have great cell service I would want it to use the cellular signal.  Do I have to switch that manually or will the phone decide which to use a relatively decent/accurate manner?

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Spotty wi-fi

From Jay Lose on July 01, 2016 :: 11:30 am

Hi Chad, I’m not sure about the other cell services, I had Verizon before switching to Project Fi, but Project Fi will use wi-fi as it’s first choice for making calls, if that signal isn’t strong enough it will automagically switch to either Sprint, T-Mobile or Consumer Cellular.
When I was on Verizon they didn’t have wi-fi calling at that time. I think now days most carriers do.
Hope this helps.

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Auto switch

From Ann on July 20, 2016 :: 12:00 am

Chad, AT&T tells me that if you have wi-fi calling activated, it will make the switch IF the cellular network signal is not strong.  I have only been using it for one day, but it seems that it auto switches to wi-fi when the cellular network signal is weak and then switches back to your carrier once that signal is strong again.

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Blocked WiFi Calls

From David on August 17, 2016 :: 8:51 am

I’ve tried WiFi calling and it works fine unless the receiving party is blocking WiFi calls. I’ve run into this on several occasions recently.

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At&T wireless device correction in this article: FACT

From David on September 27, 2016 :: 1:06 am

I want to correct this articles because under the wificalling for AT&T says that the S6 has it. However it does not. Your articles neglects to elaborate that just because the maker SAMSUNG has it in the features and specs of the phone. Ultimately the setttings, configurations and update the phone needs has to be deployed by in this case AT&T. well here we are a 1 1/2 years later and the Galaxy S6 by AT&T model SMG920-A. ABSOLUTEY DOES NOT HAVE THE WIFI CALLING WORKING. In fact I was fraduently sold one by an ATT sales rep atr a store I went to with no intention to buy one. But was assured this would resolve my cell reception at home. well had problems with reception past the 14 day return period and now they woill not make good on the fact that i waws lied to and sold a phone that for over a year and half has never had the wifi calling working. Today is September 26, 2016 and i am writing the CEO of AT&T. Just something the public needs to know.

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Have you installed the latest

From Suzanne Kantra on September 27, 2016 :: 3:16 pm

Have you installed the latest update from AT&T? It’s supposed to make Wi-Fi calling available on the S6. The instructions for getting the update are here on the AT&T site:

https://www.att.com/esupport/article.html?partner=LinkShare&siteId=je6NUbpObpQ-jxyHeEYFGqgog1teDA.zxg#!/wireless/KB426709

Let me know if it does or doesn’t work.

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VPN

From Burt Daniels on December 22, 2016 :: 4:35 pm

Using public wi-fi, use a VPN app.  Play store has many.

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my wifi

From jennifer on April 11, 2017 :: 3:04 pm

I can’t get WiFi on my T-Mobile phone or make calls the only thing i can do is text.

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Wi-Fi calling

From Jenna Mendal on March 03, 2018 :: 6:45 pm

I like Wi-Fi calling, and have enabled it on my two iPads; however, it is not terribly reliable.  Every so often, maybe after a week or so of working fine, I’ll try to make a call on my iPad, and it tries to go through Wi-Fi to my iPhone, which is NOT what it’s supposed to do. When it works correctly, my iPhone can be turned off and the call still goes through perfectly.  When it fails I have to reboot the iPad and it starts working again. Also, occasionally, out of the blue, iPad will pop up a question, “Would you like to upgrade to Wi-Fi calling?” which of course means that it has forgotten that I already upgraded to Wi-Fi calling a week or two ago.  Calls to AT&T are useless, as the “techs” don’t seem to even understand how Wi-Fi calling is supposed to work.

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Works great on Verizon postpaid. Does not work on prepaid.

From Judy Fitz on November 21, 2018 :: 7:10 am

I have virtually no cell coverage in home without signal booster which is no longer supported. Verizon recommended wifi calling as alternative which works great on prepaid Verison account but is not available on postpaid plan at all. I found this out the hard way after switching to postpaid and then having to switch back, reactivate account, get new password and make friends with Verizon customer support. It took days.

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Verizon

From Ed on March 19, 2019 :: 11:31 am

My 3g Verizon extender stopped working last Friday. They sent me a new 4g extender, coming in the mail today, for free.

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Verizon

From Ed on March 19, 2019 :: 11:42 am

I used Verizon WIFI on a recent cruise. Turn phone to airplane mode, turn on WIFI calling, and subscribe to the cruise ships internet or use at free WIFI spots at port. All call to U.S. numbers are free, but call a foreign number, even in port standing outside the store and you pay long distance from the U.S. Face time, Google duo, facebook calling, etc all work for free.

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Preference

From Warren Wind on April 05, 2019 :: 2:18 pm

If Wi-Fi calling is enabled and there is a strong cellular signal, which service (wi-fi or cellular) handles the call as default?  I am hoping that cellular is the default and wi-fi only takes over if the cellular signal is weak.  Can someone answer this question for me?  thanks

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It depends

From Josh Kirschner on April 08, 2019 :: 12:02 pm

Each carrier may implement Wi-Fi calling differently, though you can often set whether you would like cellular or Wi-Fi to be preferred. For example, if you look at the last picture above in the article, you can see where “Mobile preferred” is selected on Wi-Fi Calling.

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WiFi Calling

From Skylar Bruton on April 29, 2019 :: 12:19 am

I have the watch and it says it’s using WiFi calling.  When actually it’s not letting anything have built in security and privacy as it states. Everything is public.  WiFi calling shouldn’t even be on.  Actually I don’t know which one.  Because even tho they are supposed to be paired the watch will ring but the phone won’t or visa- versa and you cannot switch the call from one device like you can when they are pared.  And they only give me to answer only on many calls to the phone.  Sounds rah silent and discrimatory to me.

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effect of SIM card

From SusanLK on June 22, 2019 :: 1:29 am

Bought a refurb iPhone 6S, added the WiFi network in my house (Comcast) to the phone. But when I tried to enable WiFi Calling, I was denied. Currently I have TracFone month-to-month and when I called them they said I my SIM card did not “support” WiFi calling and I had to PURCHASE TracFone SIM card. This sounded strange b/c that means my use of WiFi (at my house and wherever else I find an available WiFi) depends on having a SIM card that “understands” TracFone cell service, but if using WiFi, I’m NOT using the cellular network, so why must I install a special SIM card for WiFi use?

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Thanks

From Mary Haas on October 28, 2019 :: 10:00 am

Just a fast thank you. Recently got att and cant afford the bill so will connect to wifi here at the nursing home to stay in touch with family

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WiFi Calling for Emergency Access - Suggestion to Contact the FCC

From LYNND on November 03, 2019 :: 7:33 pm

I wish TracFone and their family of companies would get their story straight on WiFi calling compatibility. The CDMA network SIM cards they’ve been selling are 4G/LTE compatible but the “Advanced Calling Features”, which you need to enable WiFi calling, are missing even on VoLTE-connected phone (in my case an iPhone).

One of the draws for people to go the prepaid route is if they don’t have good enough service where they live or work by any major carrier to justify paying a premium for “call failed” headaches through postpaid. So the thinking on the part of such customers is, just carry a prepaid phone for when you’re elsewhere and have the service.

For me, Total Wireless seemed like a hard-to-beat option because they use Verizon service at a fraction of the cost of postpaid or even Verizon prepaid. I get the same number of bars (reception) as another member of my household on Verizon postpaid (for a work phone). What they don’t tell you when you buy and activate a phone on a prepaid carrier such as Total Wireless (TracFone) is that they don’t enable otherwise compatible features like WiFi calling.

That wouldn’t be so bad except that their agents will direct customers to a TracFone lookup, which is supposed to tell you if your phone and SIM are compatible for the purpose of enabling WiFi calling after the fact. However, when asked why the lookup fails their customer service agents will say they do NOT support WiFi calling on Total Wireless — at all. If that’s true, why is it that the TOS refers to WiFi calling and some of their phone agents, too, will tell you to put in a request to activate the feature by using TracFone lookup? Why ask customers to jump through the hoops if the hoops are a complete waste of time because NO phone can use WiFi calling?

In my case, I was prompted by the TracFone website after a phone/SIM card lookup to call a toll free number to inquire about a SIM exchange. However, in every case the Total Wireless agents claim they do not do any SIM exchange!

Either the agents are poorly trained or the TracFone company is engaging in dishonest business practice because they have a whole system set up to supposedly allow customers with compatible phones to be provisioned after the fact, only to deny that such a thing can be done.

I took the time to call and email in an FCC request that the regulations be changed to allow WiFi calling on ANY phone that supports the feature and is on a compatible band (i.e. VoLTE). It should NOT be lawful for a carrier to block a method of calling that may be necessary for consumers who live in low-coverage areas to dial out in an emergency. Any alteration to the phone firmware, SIM or customer account that effectively robs a consumer of the ability to use a method of dialing out for emergency services should be against FCC rules. (I wouldn’t have thought of this, honestly, if I hadn’t been the victim of one such emergency wherein my call could not connect on my own property — something that would have been feasible IF my phone was allowed to call out over my WiFi.)

I share my experience to encourage anyone who agrees with me to contact the FCC and second this observation — for customers who cannot keep their cellular calls connected, blocking WiFi calling on an otherwise compatible phone with VoLTE/HD capacity should be against the law.

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