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How does WiFi Calling really work?
SunDevilR
Member

Even though there are thousands of houses where I live, the cellco coverage sucks.  It varies from abominable to simply atrocious. I have Verizon only because it is the least atrocious of all the carriers (tried them all).  I have enabled Wi-Fi Calling on my 7+ (iOS 11.4.1), thinking that would solve the problem and I'd have call quality as good as the landline I used to have (after all, with 400 Mbs download rate - that is the lie Comcast now claims - what could go wrong?).  Unfortunately, enabling Wi-Fi Calling provides zero improvement.  Plenty of dropped calls, lots of screaming "can you hear me", standing on one foot and facing a certain direction while praying to the cellco deities while waving the phone over my head, etc are still the rule when using my iPhone. In short Wi-Fi Calling does exactly nothing.

I was thinking the problem was with the phone hardware, or possibly some iOS bug.  However Apple claims the problem has nothing to do with their hardware or iOS, and that it has everything to do with Verizon.

I have accepted the fact that I will be stuck with really stinking cell phone service as long as I live in the suburbs, and that complaining to Verizon is a waste of my time and just annoys whomever I complain to.  What I am really looking for is a technical explanation of how Wi-Fi Calling is supposed to work.  I just assumed that the call would be routed over the Internet to/from my WAP and thence to my phone (which sits about 10 feet from the WAP with a clear view).  Clearly I am misunderstanding how Wi-Fi Calling works.  Can somebody please explain the technical details of Wi-Fi Calling?

Oh, and I put my phone in field test mode.  And wouldn't you know it ... the chipset and/or Verizon limitations do not allow the phone to report the true signal strength.  A nice move on Verizon's part, keeping the customer truly in the dark.

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Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
SunDevilR
Member

So I did a little more digging.  I confirmed HD Voice is on my plan and is enabled on my phone, with LTE on voice/data etc.  And I've always had the emergency address authorized.  So I meet the requirements for Wi-Fi Calling.  After reading the FAQs, I think Wi-Fi calling only works between phones so equipped and authorized.  What about when calling a big company?  The robot asks endless annoying questions, and you eventually (maybe) get to speak to a representative.  Often it is not the correct representative, so you might get routed around a few times (always with obsequious apologies) before (maybe) getting to somebody who can answer your question.  Does Wi-Fi Calling work in that case?

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Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
willhelp2
Member

Love the details here. Tried to skim through it but had some interesting stuff in it so had to read it fully. First, it is really odd if the issue is caused by coverage when there's a lot of people living there. I agree on that. Makes me wonder though what troubleshooting was done to conclude it is a coverage issue. Usually coverage issues can only be fixed by carriers since coverage issues are coming from cell tower issues. Cell tower issues can be confirmed by carriers since they have access to their cell towers. This is the reason I wonder what troubleshooting was done to conclude it is a coverage issue.

It is frustrating to have a Wi-Fi Calling not helping with the situation. Wi-Fi Calling is an option from a phone but has to be activated in the carrier side as well before it activates. On your end, it seems the Wi-Fi Calling was already activated but still didn't improve the situation. When activation is done with Wi-Fi Calling, the carrier is now done with the Wi-Fi Calling part  since the carrier's job for Wi-Fi Calling is to get it activated on their system. Once it is activated then the phone will now use the Wi-Fi Calling on the phone. The Wi-Fi Calling on the phone is just a gateway to the Wi-Fi in the area. What I mean by that is that the phone's job now is to connect the Wi-Fi in the area to the Wi-Fi Calling. That's it. The quality is now reliable to the connection. In short, everything that happened is now in the hands of the connection. The carrier and the phone already did their part. It is activated. It is connected to Wi-Fi. Carrier is done on that first step. Phone is done the moment it is connected to the Wi-Fi.

Who handles the quality? If you have Comcast as your internet provider for the Wi-Fi, then that means Comcast is providing the connection to your calls from Wi-Fi Calling. How does the quality get affected by connection? When you use the Wi-Fi Calling, it sends data to Wi-Fi. That data travels to the Comcast connection. Then that travels to its destination then back to your phone. How does that explain the quality? Well let's start with call drops. Call drops happen on Wi-Fi Calling when the info transmitted to the Wi-Fi didn't reach the destination or the information was not transmitted back to the phone. How do I know it's Comcast? It is because that transmission is going through the Comcast connection. Why it's not the phone's fault? Because the phone just need to connect to Wi-Fi then it's the Wi-Fi's job to transmit data. Why is it not the carrier's fault? Because the carrier just has to activate the Wi-Fi Calling and the rest and done with the Wi-Fi connection. Just think of the carrier as the boss giving the permission for the Wi-Fi connection to use Wi-Fi Calling.

It is surprising for Apple to mention Verizon and not the internet provider. It will be understandable if you asked an agent from an Apple Store since they are from Sales department and not from Technical department. Some Sales understands the technicality of the Wi-Fi Calling. Some don't. There is also a factor that they know it's not a phone issue and Verizon can help since Verizon Tech Support knows how to troubleshoot it. Very mysterious on that part on why Apple stated it's all Verizon.

I am glad you wanted to learn how the Wi-Fi Calling works. I can go deeper on the technicality on how it actually works. I tried to summarize the whole process. I am not sure if it worked. About the field test mode, I am not sure if that is compatible on accessing the correct data. Sometimes when it doesn't work, it doesn't mean it's being hidden. Sometimes it is just the wrong app or setup. Anyways, I hope I gave some info that might explain some stuff. Please reply back so I can clarify some of my answers.

Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
vzw_customer_support
Customer Support

We are truly sorry to see that you have been experiencing these service issues in your home, SunDevilR, we know it is important to be able to stay connected. We appreciate you using Wi-Fi calling to improve your signal as well, it is truly beneficial. Now let me ask you, do you currently have a network extender in your home?

 

AnnaG_VZW
Follow us on TWITTER @VZWSupport
If my response answered your question please click the _Correct Answer_ button under my response. This ensures others can benefit from our conversation. Thanks in advance for your help with this!!

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Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
SunDevilR
Member

The trouble shooting I did to conclude my problem is coverage was empirical.  There is no phone problem.  I've had the phone to the Apple store Genius Bar and the tech ran all the hardware diagnostics possible.  The hardware is within spec.  So assuming the problem is not the phone, the only other parts in the system are Verizon coverage and also Comcast internet service.  Despite the fact that Comcast TV is not great their internet service is reliable, in my experience. Yes, the concentrator in my neighborhood can limit rates to individual homes, but every time I check (I use OOkla) rates up and down are high.  And we notice no problems streaming HD video, sports, etc.  So I doubt Comcast internet is a player in my problem.  However there is exactly a single Verizon tower located about 2 miles from my house (if there are any others, they are over the horizon), and I am north of the major east-west highway they would give priority to.  Cellco broadcasters are not omnidirectional.  Given there is a lot of houses out here and a single tower, it stands to reason that the shared bandwidth is going to be pretty limited.  Maybe someday Verizon will add a tower in the area, but I could be dead from old age waiting for that.  Opensignal confirms all cellco coverage is lousy in my area, just that Verizon is less lousy than their competitors. 

I've also discovered that, contrary to my original assumption that WiFI calling disabled the radio connection, i.e. that the data was transmitted directly to/from my phone to my WAP and then thru the local WAN to a handoff to Verizon somewhere in the internet system, in fact the radio connection is very much a part of the WiFi calling process.  Or so I read.  That would argue for lousy radio coverage (would be nice to know really what my dbm is, but as noted my phone can't provide that) being the culprit. 

Since I made the original post, my cell calling has been better sometime.  It isn't atrocious 100% of the time. I am guessing that with fixed local bandwidth that Verizon has available gets overwhelmed (all bandwidth for any communication is sized base don average and not peak demand).  So those of us further away with weaker signals loose first. 

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Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
vzw_customer_support
Customer Support

Please keep us updated on your service, so we can monitor the issue you are having. Our customers are at our upmost importance when it comes to service.  

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Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
SunDevilR
Member

You're kidding, right? Unless and until Verizon adds towers in my area I will continue have lousy service. 

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Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
SunDevilR
Member

Verizon service is especially atrocious today.  Then again, it is Saturday, and so most of the folks in the neighborhood are home.  Probably overloading that one cell tower 2 miles away. 

I wonder if there is some way to get Verizon motivated?  I think I'll try a complaint to the state corporation commission

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Re: How does WiFi Calling really work?
rsto1000
Member

I have had the same issue here just outside of Boston.  So, in my case Verizon has stated that we are in a "marginal coverage" area (just 19 miles from downtown Boston so we are not in a rural area that in theory may have poor coverage), and the only solution is to run wifi calling over our Comcast internet connection.

I have had no issues with wifi calling, but instead my issue is the full price I am paying for 4G coverage that Verizon advertises on their maps, and does not provide.  IF I get 2 bars on my iPhone, it is a great day.  Many times can be standing outside and get the dreaded "No Service" on the iPhone......

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