AT&T calls out competitors for offering Wi-Fi calling without proper FCC authorization

wifi calling

AT&T has called out two of its competitors, Sprint and T-Mobile, over their decision to offer Wi-Fi calling support on smartphones without first getting proper authorization from the Federal Communications Commission in a letter to that organization’s chairman.

According to AT&T, the FCC has been too slow in issuing a waiver that would allow the company to bypass certain requirements for hard-of-hearing users—a move that’s necessary for Wi-Fi calling to work.

Namely, AT&T is looking to offer Wi-Fi calling without support for teletypewriter, or TTY, devices, which “do not operate reliably on…Wi-Fi networks.” Because support for these types of devices is required by the FCC on all voice calling networks, AT&T can’t roll out Wi-Fi calling until they get a waiver releasing them from the requirement.

AT&T planned to roll out its Wi-Fi calling feature with the launch of iOS 9, and indeed still works for some users who were able to activate it in their area during the beta, but the service remains limited to only a handful of testers right now until the carrier can secure the proper paperwork.

T-Mobile and Sprint have both offered Wi-Fi calling without getting the needed authorization from the FCC, essentially putting AT&T at a disadvantage for playing by the rules.

AT&T isn’t trying to lock out deaf users on Wi-Fi calling, however. Instead, the carrier has plans to implement a newer system called RTT (real-time text) in early 2016. Along with the waiver, the carrier is seeking a change to FCC rules that would allow this new standard to be added as an acceptable alternative to the TTY requirement industry-wide.

The new RTT standard has the backing of employees within the FCC as well as advocacy groups for the disabled. There was also no public opposition to the request after a 45-day comment period opened by the FCC in July, three weeks after both proposals were first submitted.

Update: In a statement to 9to5Mac, Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s SVP of External and Legislative Affairs, took on T-Mobile’s firebrand CEO John Legere directly:

T-Mobile’s CEO is dodging the question posed in our letter to the FCC. The fact is that he “unleashed” his Wi-Fi calling while completely ignoring FCC rules. The rest of us aren’t in the habit of operating that way, especially in an area that impacts the disability community. But apparently T-Mobile feels it’s immune to the rules that apply to everyone else. It’s time the FCC proved them wrong. It’s also time the FCC granted our waiver so we can offer our customers a legal Wi-Fi calling option.

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  1. Cory © (@Nardes) - 7 years ago

    Is TTY really even a thing much anymore? Why not just text back and forth?

    • Cory © (@Nardes) - 7 years ago

      Just talked to a friend that works in the deaf community, and she basically confirmed that TTY is hardly used anymore. It’s mostly older people that use it

  2. gregonaut - 7 years ago

    ATT really looks like a whining child here. It’s pretty clear they’re no longer Apple’s chosen one, and now there’s nothing special about them. What sucks for me, is that they’re the only reliable provider in my area, so I kinda have to use them.

  3. Howie Isaacks - 7 years ago

    Obviously, the people at AT&T are assholes. They don’t want other companies to give their customers this feature, and have a competing feature that AT&T won’t offer. The TRUTH is that AT&T is actually in no hurry. Just do a search for AT&T wifi calling, and you’ll find some statements from AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega basically saying that since their network is so great they’re in no hurry. So now you have the truth. AT&T lags behind while other carriers move forward. They did this with tethering, and now they’re doing it with wifi calling.

  4. Can”t wait until Apple offers SIP (VOIP) standard from the Phone dialer and baked into the rest of the OS and we can tell ATT, and anyone else, to shove it with their voice plans.

  5. beyondthetech - 7 years ago

    For a company that got fined $100M by the FCC for throttling customer’s data throughput, now they want to act like “school hall monitor” for the other carriers? To hell with these guys.

  6. arwynnfcffxiv - 7 years ago

    I especially like how the comment from AT&T tried to use the disabled community as an attack then thry themselves are trying to get a waiver so they can bypass it. Sure they are working on something but it sounds hypocritical to me.

  7. Magnolo Bugarin - 7 years ago

    Pretty lame Jim Cicconi. As soon as my contract expires I will be kissing your overpriced network goodbye. Instead of innovating AT&T tries to screw every last drop ounce of blood from it’s customers. NOT COOL!

  8. Jim Hassinger - 7 years ago

    The opposite is, in fact, true. AT&T is lobbying like crazy to get Wi-Fi calling stricken — or a service AT&T could monetize. AT&T is dragging its feet. The FCC has been for Wi-Fi calling. I’m sure they’re all over Sprint and TMobile, but doing what the FCC majority wants!

  9. Hey ATT, I WANT a company that BREAKS THE RULES. GFY.

  10. I like how attacking the one company that makes every attempt to put the customer first, is AT&T’s mission. Everything I read about T Mobile makes me a happy customer of theirs, and J. Legere is one heck of a CEO.

  11. if you can’t beat them… sue them.

  12. tido83 - 7 years ago

    Hypocritical (adj.)- AT&T’s reason for not allowing WiFi calling. Let’s not forget the net neutrality throttling.