WiFi Calling works only intermittently
chertz
Enthusiast - Level 2

I have had the following problem with two different iPhone 12 Pro Max phones over the past year, and now with my new iPhone 13 Pro Max.

I live in an area of poor cellular connectivity, and therefore rely on WiFi Calling when at home. When WiFi Calling is On, most of the time I can receive and make voice calls perfectly. However, about a third of the time WiFi Calling is not active, in spite of the fact that I can easily prove that my WiFi network remains well connected to the Internet, at around 25 Mbps, and that the iPhone remains connected to my WiFi network.

The way I can tell if WiFi Calling is active is to lock the screen, then tap once on the screen to illuminate it. If I see “VZW WiFi” in the upper left corner, then I can be 100% sure that I can make and receive calls; I have tested this hundreds of times over the past year. If, on the other hand, I see “Extended Network” in the upper left corner, I can be 100% sure than I CANNOT make or receive calls, though I can still access the Internet for anything else via WiFi. I will see “Extended Network” about a third of the time, but I have not been able to correlate it with time of day or anything else, it seems entirely random.

I understand that “Extended Network” means that the phone has connected to a non-Verizon network, with which Verizon has contracted to provide service when out of range of a Verizon cell tower. However: 1) the extended network to which the phone is connected is very weak, and incapable of supporting a phone call, and 2) if I have set “WiFi Calling” to ON, the phone SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED to disable it and try the call on a (useless) extended network, or even on a perfectly good network, for that matter -- it’s SUPPOSED to always use WiFi for phone calls unless I tell it not to.

I can easily solve the problem, temporarily, by setting the iPhone to Airplane Mode when in my house; WiFi calling is never subverted by the appearance of an “extended network” if I do this, and voice calls go in or out perfectly, without exception. The problem with this is that I almost invariably forget to take the iPhone out of Airplane Mode when I leave the house. And really I shouldn’t have to do this anyway.

I have spent a couple of hours on the phone last winter with Verizon tech support, escalated a couple of levels, and they were unable to help me, after trying multiple solutions – resetting network settings, disconnecting and reconnecting to Verizon, and other things that I am not sufficiently tech-savvy to understand. After failing to help me, they insisted it was an Apple problem and there was nothing else they could do. I can’t prove that’s wrong, but if it is an Apple problem, it is a general one – it’s highly unlikely that I could have received 3 defective iPhones in the last year, several months apart. And if it were a general Apple iPhone problem, Google would quickly turn it up. Which it hasn’t.

 

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Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
vzw_customer_support
Customer Service Rep

chertz, 

We understand how important your calls are to you. We want to get to the bottom of this. Have you checked your internet connection? This can be a good reason that your Wi-Fi calling may cut out. Have you had any issues with other Wi-Fi services or other areas?

 

-Jenelle

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Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
chertz
Enthusiast - Level 2

If you will re-read my note, you will see that I said:  “However, about a third of the time WiFi Calling is not active, in spite of the fact that I can easily prove that my WiFi network remains well connected to the Internet, at around 25 Mbps, and that the iPhone remains connected to my WiFi network.”

When WiFi Calling for some reason tunes out, and the iPhone shows “extended network” in the upper left corner, I can do anything else I want on the Internet:  Read the NY Times, get my email, check my connection speed with the Ooka app (which always shows close to 25 Mbps), etc. etc.  I just can’t make phone calls, because the phone has for some reason connected to an “extended network” instead of staying with WiFi Calling, and  the “extended network” is very weak and does not permit a phone call.

This problem is present not only on my new iPhone 13 Pro Max, but on three previous iPhone 12’s.  So I think it’s a Verizon problem and not an Apple problem.  And Apple tech support insists that must be the case.

My Internet connection is rock solid, always at very close to 25 Mbps. It never fails.  It’s just that WiFi Calling stops working about a third of the time, and the phone switches itself to the “extended network,” which it shouldn’t even be allowed to do if I’ve specified WiFi Calling.  Right?

 

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Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
vzw_customer_support
Customer Service Rep

We want this resolved ASAP.  Have you been able to test other Wi-Fi Networks with the Wi-Fi Calling?  If oo, what was the result?  -Sean

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Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
chertz
Enthusiast - Level 2

Yes.  Logged into WiFi at a coffee shop for an extended period of time -- 20 miles away, entirely different ISP -- with same results.  Most of the time WiFi Calling works, about a third of the time the iPhone connects to a (useless) "extended network," and I can't make or receive phone calls.  As at home, during these periods I continued to have excellent Internet connectivity for everything else.  If I specify WiFi Calling, shouldn't the phone stick to that -- it shouldn't even be ALLOWED to look for a cellular network, right? 

As I said, I can get around this by setting the phone to Airplane Mode, and then it will stick to WiFi Calling.  The only problem with that is that I have to remember to take it out of Airplane Mode when I leave the house (or coffee shop, or whatever), which I almost invariably forget to do.  But Airplane Mode SHOULDN'T be necessary, WiFi Calling means WiFi Calling.  Or it should, anyway.

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Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
vzw_customer_support
Customer Service Rep

Hello, chertz. We are sorry to hear that your Wi-Fi calling is requiring you put your phone in Airplane mode. We have sent you a Private Note, to look in to this issue further for you. *Cassie

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Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
chertz
Enthusiast - Level 2

Thanks for your efforts in the subsequent chat session.  Didn't solve the problem.  I've given up, just not worth investing any more time or energy in a process that is almost certain to be fruitless.  I might add that I spent a total of two hours on the phone with Verizon tech support about six or eight months ago, escalated a couple of levels, and they couldn't help either.  Seems to me it should be pretty simple:  If a phone is set to WiFi calling, then it shouldn't be allowed to look for a cellular connection if WiFi is available, but for some inexplicable reason Verizon just can't manage this, and is constantly finding me an "extended network" with a signal strength of one bar that is completely useless.  At least Airplane Mode keeps me in communication with the outside world (somehow Verizon manages to respect Airplane Mode, and not look for a cellular connection), and I'm getting better at remembering to turn it on and off when I enter and leave my house.

 

Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
vzw_customer_support
Customer Service Rep

I apologize for the experience as we always want to ensure you have clear and accurate information. I can also confirm that Airplane Mode is the only option to completely disable the cellular connection on an iPhone and lock in the WiFi Calling. The device is designed by the manufacturer to always prefer cellular signal. We will make sure your feedback is heard so we can improve the support we are able to offer.  -Yale

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Re: WiFi Calling works only intermittently
chertz
Enthusiast - Level 2

Thank you for the reply.  I don't question your expertise, but I think you are misinformed.

1.  I have discussed this issue with Apple tech support, at two escalated levels, and reps at those levels have specifically consulted their engineers, after I submitted specially collected logs of my phone activity.  (This process went on for several days.) They insist the phone should stay on WiFi calling if that's the way it's set, and that it's Verizon's fault if that doesn't happen.  (And why on earth would anyone design the phone to turn off WiFi Calling?  That's clearly the best option if WiFi is available.)

2.  The cellular signal around my house is weak but variable.  Sometimes (rarely) I will have two bars of LTE, and can actually make a decent phone call on cellular, at least for a few minutes.  But if I set the phone to WiFi Calling, the call will go over WiFi, as evidenced by the appearance of "VZW WiFi" in the upper left corner, even if a 2-bar LTE signal is available.  The ONLY time -- I emphasize, the ONLY time -- WiFi Calling turns itself off is when Verizon connects me to an "extended network," which invariably shows only one bar of signal strength, and which I am never ever able to make a call on.  When WiFi Calling turns off in that situation, I am completely and absolutely cut off from making or receiving phones calls, ALWAYS, no exceptions.  To say that's a feature and not a bug is ridiculous.

No need to reply, I've given up, I'm getting better at remembering when to turn Airplane Mode on and off.