20
Feb
sprint-bw

T-Mobile has had WiFi calling for a number of years, but now Sprint is about to get into the game. Rumors began circulating early this year, and now we have the details on the launch, which is happening tomorrow. An OTA update (scheduled for 2/21 as well) for the Galaxy S4 Mini and Galaxy Mega will enable WiFi calling on those devices, but other phones will come later.

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Voice calls made over WiFi won't count against plan minutes, assuming you have a limited number of minutes anyway. It will also support SMS over WiFi. You'll be able to turn the feature on with a settings toggle on the device or with a new WiFi calling app from Sprint. Setup involves a quick visit to the Sprint account settings and registering your WiFi networks. Each network has to be authorized by the user before it will work. Keep in mind there is no handover if you move from cellular to WiFi or vice versa – this isn't anything like what Republic Wireless is doing.

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Interestingly, Sprint has some stringent 911 requirements. WiFi calling needs an address attached to each authorized network. That will be handled automatically with Google location services, but you may also edit the location manually. If you place a 911 call with WiFi calling enabled, it will try to go over CDMA, but will fall back to WiFi if necessary. At that point, the address becomes important.

The service is only available in the US, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. If the device doesn't report a valid location, WiFi calling will not work. The Sprint signal is still important, though. CDMA connectivity will be used to determine if a device is within the Sprint footprint – being in a roaming area disables outbound calls due to 911 regulations (or so says Sprint).

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So, Sprint's WiFi calling won't be as flexible as true VoIP, but it's convenient because it works with your existing dialer and messaging apps. It should be great for those with poor signal on Sprint, but who are still inside a supported service area. The two Samsung phones will be the only supported devices at first, but Sprint gives the impression it will be a common practice to include WiFi calling going forward. More devices will probably get OTAs with WiFi calling support as well.

[Thanks, anon]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Seriously, no handover? Dealbreaker right there.

    • Fifth313ment

      Artem, I don't know why T-Mobile doesn't have Wifi to GSM handoff? Republic does... T-Mobiles is still pretty awesome that you can use it in other countries and pay nothing. It's a lifesaver for me and the reason I switched from Sprint (had an Airave which sucked) as I needed WiFi calling! It works seamlessly and is fast as heck. Sometimes I dial and I get answered before it even rings. Artem, read my other post on this thread...

  • Dan, From The Internet

    WiFi calling: when a network's infrastructure is so bad, that they expect you to build it for them.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Well, they've already had Airaves, so this is pretty much the same thing, minus the Airave hardware.

      • Shawn Cheever

        Which is why I find this exciting. I've had an Airave now going on two years and while it does work it certainly has it's problems. Hopefully this can be enabled by just copying over the WiFi Calling app to other phones such as my Nexus 5.

        • Fifth313ment

          I can't imagine it just working on a simple apk swap as there has to be a reason they are releasing first on the Spark enabled phones? Maybe not though, give it a try and report back tomorrow.

        • ProductFRED

          Unfortunately if this is like T-Mobile's setup, it's built into the framework of the phone and cannot be. The Wifi Calling app icon is most likely just a regular icon to the settings. On T-Mobile phones, going to the Wifi Calling menu in the Settings menu really just launches the Wifi Calling app settings.

        • yankeesusa

          Not going to work on nexus phones. Since sprint doesn't install or tweak these phones it will not have the proper files to run wifi calling.

  • Barnassey

    Typical Sprint half-assedness...

  • a g

    Lol.
    Further validation that Sprint execs know their network sucks.

  • cabbiebot

    I presume that having the typical american 1 mbps upload speed is going to be sufficient for this?

    • Fifth313ment

      Are you crazy?! Typical? I get 58Mb down and 12Mb up on Comcast Blast! And Comcast is everywhere (now even more due to TWC aq). Oh and Comcast is upgrading me to 105Mb down and 20Mb up in a few months and kicking all performance users to 50Mb tiers! You only have those speeds if you have U-Verse or are in the sticks!

      EDIT: Oh and Sprint's network currently runs on slower than that, lol, had to get that in.

      • Brendan Dillon

        The Comcast TWC merger isn't gonna happen. This is far worse than ATT buying up TMobile..

      • cabbiebot

        trolltastic!

      • squiddy20

        1. Are you sure of the data unit you/Comcast is using? Mbps is different than MB/s.
        2. Like Brendan stated, if you think the speed Comcast says you get is the average or norm, you clearly have no clue what you're talking about. Those speeds are usually the maximum under optimum conditions. According to Speedtest.net, I should be able to pull a 4 MB file in about a second (~32 Mbps). In the almost 7 years I've had service with Comcast, I don't think I've pulled anything higher than 3MB/s (24 Mbps), and if I did, it was only for a few seconds.

        3. Just because you might have above average data speeds, does not mean the rest of the US does (that's why it's called an "average"). Hell, my grandmother upgraded from what was essentially dial-up speeds via satellite, to the "norm" only a few years ago.

  • TaylorSellers

    Is this made possible purely through software? I was always under the impression that T-Mobile's implementation required a hardware element.

    • chenxiaolong

      T-Mobile's implementation doesn't require any hardware support, but it's integrated in the framework pretty deeply and also requires the drivers and the Android telephony stack to be able to read the GBA authentication data from the SIM card: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_Bootstrapping_Architecture

  • TaylorSellers

    Hopefully this will soon be made obsolete by the Hangouts update that will enable voice calling. You know, the update we've been waiting for ever since the iOS version got it in October.

  • Gues

    Sprint is just doing this because their service is sooo horrible. They still use 1x (http://mysprintexpierence.blogspot.com/2014/01/proof-that-sprint-covers-up-its-1x.html) and here are a list of local news articles from 14 different states about Sprints horrible service (http://mysprintexpierence.blogspot.com/2014/02/news-articles-detailing-sprints-bad.html).

  • SorinDobrin

    In the T-Mobile world , using Wi-Fi calling counts towards your minutes quota.

    • Fifth313ment

      Who cares most of us have unlimited minutes?! Also what is the point of Wifi calling (other than saving plan mins on Sprint) if it still needs CDMA signal? WTF?!

      5TH

      • SorinDobrin

        The point of WiFi calling is this " you're visiting your in-laws, or you're in a vacation in the woods of Virginia, no signal , but they have Wi-Fi .. so you can still use your phone to place calls or receive important messages"

        • Fifth313ment

          That's what I was getting at, I have T-Mobile WiFi calling that even works in other countries! It works everywhere, stores, restaurants, brothels! I mean it's great! But what is Sprint's good for if you need a CDMA signal, other than to save plan mins?!

      • Daniel

        It needs CDMA to start but if you have a fluxuating signal this will help with both audio quality and dropped calls.

        • yankeesusa

          Doesn't make any sense. The point of wifi calling is to make a call when you have no cell signal and can use the wifi at a resort where no cell signal penetrates some areas. Example, I was at a resort with family. Neither I nor my brother in law who has verizon had a signal. Yet I was able to make phone calls using wifi. Glad I had tmobile.

        • Albie Frates

          I have a Sprint Galaxy Mega 6.3 and got the ridiculously HUGE update last night. I am fortunate to live in an area that has both a strong Sprint 4G LTE signal and Spark too. However, because the interior of my house is a black hole for calls (spotty, dropped calls, etc) I anticipate the benefits of wifi calling. Unfortunately, it's too bad Sprint is notorious for lack of customer service in so many ways. No advance notice, no instructions, huge update gobbling tons of memory...all for a minor update. I mean, seriously, who's gonna buy a Galaxy Gear? And who, besides those that can actually figure out and activate wifi calling need this gargantuan update? I have extremely fast Verizon FIOS wifi and it took almost a half hour to download this update.

      • DallasDude

        Mis-information all over the net in this respect. As long as the address you supply for 911 is within Sprint's coverage
        footprint you can use Wifi Calling, CDMA signal present or not. If your
        address is outside of the footprint your Wifi service will be limited to
        incoming calls only if there is zero CDMA signal present, with normal
        Wifi service if you have ANY kind of CDMA signal present.

    • yankeesusa

      Actually, not anymore

  • Fifth313ment

    It sounded like you were caving to Sprint?! Do a comparison article vs T-Mobile's Wifi calling and Republic?! T-mobile has no restrictions and neither does Republic so why is Sprint's so shoddy? Thumbs up if you guys want to see a comparison review article?

    5th

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Why?! Are you taking like this?!

  • ProductFRED

    This is a huge fail compared to T-Mobile's Wifi Calling:

    1. You don't need to be in the US on T-Mobile to use it. You can be anywhere in the world and make calls and texts over wifi for free.

    2. You don't have to authorize Wifi Networks manually. It works over any secured (password enabled) wifi network...

    3. 911 address only needs to be registered at your home address (because that's where they expect you're using it most)

    • Jason

      #1 - Wrong. Read the roaming TOS. When roaming, calls over WiFi are 20 cents a minute, and texts over WiFi are 20 cents a text, except calls and texts to the US, which are free; roaming calls over cellular are 20 cents a minute, roaming texts over cellular are free. And this is if you're on post-paid with the Simple Choice plan; on pre-paid, roaming will cost you an arm and a leg.

      http://www.t-mobile.com/International/RoamingOverview.aspx?tp=Inl_Tab_RoamWorldwide

      • ProductFRED

        Are you really that dense? I didn't think I would have to specifically state "calls to the US". Also, this Wifi Calling feature on Sprint is also only on postpaid as far as I can tell, so it's an equal comparison. Plus what's the point of Wifi Calling if it needs service to work?

        • DallasDude

          Mis-information all over the net in this respect. As long as the address you supply for 911 is within Sprint's coverage
          footprint you can use Wifi Calling, CDMA signal present or not. If your
          address is outside of the footprint your Wifi service will be limited to
          incoming calls only if there is zero CDMA signal present, with normal
          Wifi service if you have ANY kind of CDMA signal present. And it's free, always, whether you're roaming within the US or not.

  • Derail Doax

    Eh. This doesn't fix Sprint sucking. I'm glad we moved to AT&T. Plus with the newly discounted Shared Data Value Plans our 4 line monthly bill is down to $160+tax on AT&T where it was 190+tax on Sprint even after my 18% corporate discount. And now I can actually get LTE here in Seattle where I was stuck on 200 Kbps EVDO on Sprint. Good riddance. I think back and can't believe I put up with Sprints horrible service for 11 years.

  • Dwight Schrute

    republic gives you this service for less and also has some verizon roaming for phone and text while using the Moto x.

  • tradertom1

    The Republic Wireless plan is still much better than this - you get a rock bottom price with a seamless handover from Wifi to Cell coverage.

  • rrgrrg

    galaxy s4 mini and galaxy mega doesnt have kitkat upgrade os .... :/

  • http://www.fullmoonblog.com/ Flatlinebb

    Txt over WiFi? That's called Google Voice.

  • Albie Frates

    a minute ago
    Got the update on my Mega last night. Of course I had no idea what it was for (until now). It took a half hour to download on my very fast Verizon FIOS wifi. Gobbled up a HUGE chunk of memory and came with no notice, instructions or details. Fumbled around until I discovered the menu to enable the damn thing. Sprint, like so many other monolithic corporations, is too big to really care or handle its customer base. Only because I'm a "relatively" intelligent geek by choice and am able to figure things out ( mostly by stumbling around on my own or using the forums) was I able to understand this latest OTA from Sprint. I can only imagine how the average joe out there has no clue about the smartphone they're holding in their hands (other than the basic knowledge to call/text/surf. What a boondoggle!