Published: 10/07/2017
Author: Greg Collins, Exact Ventures

Originally published in No Jitter on July 7, 2017 

VoWiFi services offer a way to get better in-building voice coverage and quality, while netting customer satisfaction improvements.

When it comes to voice, unreliable service, lack of proper coverage, and poor quality can often be primary causes for why a business or consumer would leave one provider for another. Voice-over-WiFi (VoWifi) is one option for getting enterprises and consumers the high-quality voice services they need, when they need them, and in the most cost-effective manner.

For businesses, relying on VoWiFi comes with pros and cons. In a campus or office setting, VoWiFi can provide business or government users with improved coverage and potentially lower costs. However, handoffs to the mobile network can be problematic. The voice traffic would require a dedicated path or tunnel through the corporate firewall back to the service provider’s core network. That sounds simple, but many enterprises are reluctant to allow this.

Most enterprises already stop and filter data traffic through a firewall. But voice would need a continual opening or path through the firewall in order to maintain necessary quality of service. Security, privacy, and hacking concerns are prompting enterprises to be increasingly circumspect about security issues, and opening their firewalls for VoWiFi traffic could create a potential vulnerability. WiFi in general just uses the enterprise’s usual WAN connections, which are often protected by several layers of security or firewalls. In order to preserve the quality of service and assure quick and effective handoffs between VoWiFi and the mobile network, VoWiFi will require that there be a more direct path through the layers of enterprise security and the the operator’s core network.

A potential solution for this would involve tighter integration between enterprise WiFi networks and operators’ hosted unified communications services, which are increasingly based in the cloud. Service providers have the capability to provide hosted WiFi services for their enterprise and SMB customers. VoWiFi can be expensive to manage, and some enterprises might opt to use hosted WiFi and VoWiFi service providers that manage the enterprise WiFi netowrks remotely with controllers in the cloud.

For consumers, VoWiFi is important in improving voice coverage in homes. In many cases, newer cellular technologies (3G, 4G, etc.) are initially deployed at higher frequencies. Because higher frequencies have shorter radio waves, providing adequate indoor coverage takes more power from outdoor base stations. Not only will VoWiFi improve indoor coverage, but because the phone will not be constantly looking for a better cellular signal, it has the potential to save significant battery life as well.

Consumers can potentially access voice services tied to their mobile numbers through WiFi-only devices like tablets, e-readers, and perhaps even TVs, set-top boxes, and game consoles. VoWiFi services can help reduce expensive roaming charges, too, because the data traffic will no longer need to cross expensive, often legacy, peering points between operators.

For service providers, improved indoor coverage will result in increased customer satisfaction and lower customer churn. Lower customer churn is especially important in saturated markets where customer and revenue growth is only possible by taking customers from the competition. By offloading voice traffic to WiFi, operators can allocate more spectrum to mobile data and video services, which are key drivers for growth. Service providers (wireline, cable, and over the top) without licensed spectrum can use VoWiFi combined with roaming agreements to introduce their own services as brand extensions. This will assist them in completing triple-play or quad-play solutions, and promote their own content or services. With VoWiFi, service providers are able to offer consumers less expensive international voice roaming services alongside lucrative data packages.

VoiWifi has become a vital technology that cost effectively provides improved indoor coverage in homes, businesses, and other highly populated areas. All operators must realize the benefits of, and effectively adopt, all-IP VoWiFi as part of their core services in order to increase customer satisfaction and improve spectrum utilization, allowing them to increase their competitive offerings in other cut-throat, saturated markets.