Around the eastern Dutchess/Putnam area, it’s not uncommon to be in places where our mobile phones don’t work well. The lovely hills and dales of our region are not friendly to the propagation of cell signals. It can be frustrating to not be able to depend on your cell phone, in whatever signal-blocked location you find yourself, whether it be at home, walking around the village, or elsewhere. That’s where WiFi calling can come to the rescue.
When the cellular phone network isn’t connecting, a feature built-in to current smartphones called “WiFi calling” will use an available WiFi network to place your call (or send your texts) over the Internet. Not only is WiFi calling handy, it’s also automatic (once you turn it on, in your phone), and it is, essentially, free!
What? Free You Say?
WiFi calling doesn't cost anything extra. The major carriers treat your WiFi calls as though you were making a regular cellular call from the U.S. Your call “minutes” will count if you have that type of plan, but if your plan allows unlimited calls, then it’s no charge. Data charges drop off entirely on a WiFi link, because the phone company is entirely out of that connection!
By the way, this can make WiFi calling great for calls to home while traveling internationally, because there’s typically no roaming or international charge for making WiFi calls back home to the U.S. (You may still get international charges though, even when calling the country you’re in. Check your plan.)
How to Make a WiFi Call
This part is easy, but you do need to turn on the feature in your phone. WiFi calling is, generally, not enabled on smartphones out of the box. But turning it on is easy. (Note: Generally, you’ll only find WiFi calling on smartphones (iPhone and Android) that are newer than 2015 or so.) To turn yours on, go to your phone’s “Settings” menu and search for “WiFi calling.” On iPhones, go to Settings > Cellular > Wi-Fi Calling and then toggle on “Wi-Fi Calling on This Phone.” On Android, you’ll typically find WiFi calling under Settings > Networks & Internet > Mobile network > Advanced > Wi-Fi Calling. Or, you can search the Settings menu for “WiFi calling.” Once you find it, toggle on WiFi calling.
For both Apple and Android, once you turn WiFi calling on you will be asked to provide your address for emergency 9-1-1 calls. Enter your home or office address, the one where you’re most likely to be if you ever happen to need to call 9-1-1. (The FCC requires a physical address for the 911 system.) Once you activate WiFi calling, you simply dial or text as usual. All the technical part is handled automatically in the background.
Which Carriers Offer WiFi Calling?
All major cell phone carriers offer WiFi calling on recent vintage iPhones and Android phones. (Some carriers actually depend on it now, like Google “Fi” and Xfinity Mobile.) Of course, if your handset doesn’t support Wi-Fi calling, you may be able to find some workarounds. Apps like FaceTime, Skype, and WeChat allow you to make voice and video calls over WiFi as well as send text messages.
You Do Need WiFi!
Of course, WiFi calling won’t work without WiFi! But there are WiFi hotspots everywhere these days, and access to high-quality, safe hotspots is free to anyone who uses a cable company to access the Internet at home. Your cable company provides you with an account name and password to use (really!) and once you use those to connect to a cable hotspot you are good to go. Your phone will automatically connect to the nearest available hotspot, and reconnect you as you roam about town or village. And I can tell you that it is possible to walk all over Pawling Village without dropping a call, thanks to ubiquitous Xfinity WiFi hotspots!
Does WiFi Calling Work at Home?
Yes! Just make sure that your phone is connected to your home WiFi network, and away you go. Suddenly your cell phone works everywhere!
Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at (845) 855-5824, or www.PawlingComputerGuy.com.