AT&T customers who still rely on a MicroCell for reliable iPhone connections on calls (like me) are a step closer to getting Wi-Fi calling support. The FCC approved AT&T's waiver request, which means the carrier can start rolling out the feature nation-wide.
AT&T can finally enable Wi-Fi calling support for iPhone users
Wi-Fi calling uses broadband Internet connections for calls when your cell signal is too weak. It's a feature supported by all iPhones since the iPhone 5c was introduced, although carriers need to enable it.
AT&T did turn on the feature for some customers during the iOS 9 beta, but didn't turn it on nation-wide because FCC approval hadn't been granted yet. T-Mobile began offering Wi-Fi calling as soon as Apple added the feature to the iPhone, and Sprint has since followed suit. Neither carrier, however, has been granted the necessary FCC waiver.
AT&T Senior Executive Vice President-External and Legislative Affairs Jim Cicconi commented on its new waiver saying,
We're grateful the FCC has granted AT&T's waiver request so we can begin providing Wi-Fi calling. At the same time we are left scratching our heads as to why the FCC still seems intent on excusing the behavior of T-Mobile and Sprint, who have been offering these services without a waiver for quite some time. Instead of initiating enforcement action against them, or at least opening an investigation, the agency has effectively invited them to now apply for similar waivers and implied that their prior flaunting of FCC rules will be ignored.
FCC regulations require support for TTY—the teletype systems people with hearing limitations use for phone conversations—don't work reliably over Wi-Fi connections. The FCC does grant waivers allowing carriers to support Wi-Fi calling, so AT&T applied for theirs. With that in place, AT&T can enable Wi-Fi calling, which will likely happen some time soon.
For AT&T customers who were miffed about not getting Wi-Fi calling support right away like their T-Mobile friends, at least now we have an explanation as to why we've been waiting. It would've been nice to have the feature earlier, but it looks like AT&T wanted to fly straight and narrow on this and comply with the FCC's regulations.
AT&T hasn't said how soon we'll get Wi-Fi calling, but now that the required waiver is in place it could happen any time.
Want to learn how to turn on Wi-Fi calling on your iPhone? The Mac Observer has you covered.