Ericsson extends Wi-Fi Calling to Wi-Fi only devices

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Following Apple’s iOS8 launch late last year, carriers have been off to the races trying to get to market first with Wi-Fi calling. And yes, it does look like Wi-Fi calling ‘the Apple way’ is quickly becoming a best practice. Network vendor Ericsson is now extending the reach of Wi-Fi calling to non-SIM devices such as your laptop and tablet.

The product was launched last week and Ericsson calls it Wi-Fi calling ‘multi-device’ (read the Ericsson notice here). The idea of course is to enable consumers to place and receive calls from their tablet or laptop using whatever Wi-Fi network they happen to be on AND using their regular mobile phone number.

Apple already supports such a feature (if you’ve got a Mac or an iPad) with FaceTime, and it’s rumoured that Ericsson developed the multi-device product in cooperation with Apple. Overall, Wi-Fi calling for non-SIM devices is not exactly rocket science but it is indicative of a new readiness by the mobile industry to extend services to Wi-Fi. And that’s good news for the Wi-Fi industry.

Whether Ericsson’s new feature will do anything to quell the growing appetite for OTT voice with Skype, Whatsapp, Google Hangouts, etc. remains to be seen. One big benefit of Wi-Fi calling in all its forms that it extends cellular telephony reach to Wi-Fi networks, and this is a cheap fix to indoor coverage problems. In the longer term, it’s likely that Wi-Fi calling will take a bite out of the market for indoor cellular coverage solutions like DAS as more voice calls will move to whatever Wi-Fi networks happen to be there.

Technically, Ericsson is doing (like most other vendors) Wi-Fi calling ‘the Apple Way’ – meaning by IPSec tunnelling from the device to the EPC (Enhanced Packet Core) and IMS core network that also supports VoLTE. Part of the reason for Ericsson’s push to multi-device calling is of course to make it more attractive for carriers to go for Ericsson’s full-on IMS solution which is – by the way – a pretty big investment.

And core network support is the biggest financial hurdle for carriers looking into this. Not only does the Ericsson solution require IMS and EPC, it also will need (for SIM-devices) a carrier Wi-Fi AAA, aka carrier Wi-Fi service management platform. For more on Wi-Fi calling also read this

Curiously, there’s a common misconception – says VP Marketing Johan Terve of Aptilo Networks – that Wi-Fi calling is insecure because it runs over whatever Wi-Fi network happens to be available, including home & public Wi-Fi. This is not true because IPSec creates a secure & encrypted tunnel and because subscribers are authenticated with their SIMs, Johan Terve says.

And there are alternative vendors out there offering core networks that can deliver on Wi-Fi calling. At Wi-Fi NOW in Amsterdam we will be zooming in on Wi-Fi calling with carrier Wi-Fi leader Aptilo Networks and innovative newcomer SpectrumMAX.

For more on all of this don’t miss Wi-Fi NOW Amsterdam coming up November 17-19 in Amsterdam. See our complete program and register here.