If your mobile phone wireless carrier offers free wifi calling, check it out! It could save you money, relieve stress, and give you better at-home wireless coverage!
As a small business owner with limited funds, I worry about the cost of my mobile phone bill, especially since my mobile phone is the lifeline of my business and I often get into lengthy conversations with customers on it. Of course I could cut those calls short but that would be at odds with my mission to provide a superior level of service and responsiveness to my customers. However, I do worry about going over the magic minute mark and possibly getting whacked with extra charges.
So imagine my delight when T-Mobile, sent me a text message announcing that they were offering free wifi calling for supported phones on their network.
What is wifi calling? It’s the mobile phone equivalent of Skype or Vonage, where instead of calling through the carrier’s 3G or 4G network (what most people still refer to as the cellular network), your phone is set up to make calls over the internet using your home wireless network.
So I rushed to the link on t-mobile’s website that promised the free wifi calling feature, and frankly, found it a bit difficult to decipher. They didn’t offer much in the way of instructions except for a list of phones for me to pick from. Okay, I chose mine, the Blackberry Bold 9900 and clicked it, expecting to be taken to a page that would say yes or no wifi calling and maybe some instructions for how to enable it. But instead, it just delivered me to a page that displayed a link stating that a software (OS) upgrade was available for my phone and then listed links to the Blackberry user manuals. Apparently T-Mobile feels that sending me to the manuals is adequate guidance… ummm not in THIS America!
Of course I don’t give up so easily and just a short google search away, found on crackberry.com, that my phone does indeed support wifi calling, but it needs to be enabled by my carrier. Ok, back to the T-Mobile site where I once again followed the path through the woods to the page for my phone. Still no clues from T-Mobile (not that I expected anything to have changed, but thought maybe I just missed seeing something the first time around like an “enable wifi now” button). So while searching I noticed the “software upgrade available” button again and decided to at least get that done so I wouldn’t feel like my efforts were wasted.
I initiated the software upgrade directly through my phone and it took about 2 hours to complete. When it came back up, lo and behold! there in the upper right corner was the wifi calling icon, and within minutes a message popped up on my screen explaining how wifi calling works. You know… they could have just said something on the website like “to enable wifi calling, download this lastest software update” …
Anyhow, the first benefit to wifi calling is that calls through my home wifi network don’t use plan minutes and don’t cost extra. This is perfect for my home-based business where most of my longer calls take place while I’m at home sitting at my computer. The second benefit is that my indoor wifi coverage is about a zillion times better than my indoor 3g/4g coverage, so I no longer have to do the sit-in-the-chair-by-the-front-corner-of-the-house-and-lean-towards-the-window-because-that’s-where-the-coverage-is thing.
Now don’t let me mislead you, wifi calling is far from perfect. First, it’s only as good as your local wifi connection and if you frequently lose your wifi connection at home, consider upgrading your wifi router as an unreliable connection will translate directly into dropped calls. Second, at least in the case of T-Mobile’s implementation, there’s no handoff between wifi and 3g/4g which means if you go out of range of your wifi network during a call (eg if you leave your house), the call will be dropped.
However, if you take and make a lot of calls at home and have a reasonably reliable wifi network, free wifi calling can not only make things cheaper and easier, it can also give you a little respite from that constant worry over plan minutes!