Appetite ripe for Wi-Fi calling, if providers solve battery, QoE issues

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Wi-Fi calling providers need to solve battery drain and inconsistent quality of experience if they are to meet strong consumer appetite for the technology, new research from Ericsson has claimed.

The vendor recently measured consumer behaviour in the United States, where Wi-Fi calling is a lot more widespread. It found seven out of 10 consumers found the technology appealing, with 77 percent saying they would use their smartphone more if they had the service.

While twice as many voice calls and texts are made indoors compared to outdoors, only three in 10 are content with their quality of calling, coverage and reliability. The report found that less than 40 percent of consumers in Germany, Italy, Austria, Sweden and the UK were happy with the quality of their voice calling. It said this figure declines to as little as one in 10 in particularly dense urban areas in the likes of China and Japan.

Users said the extension of coverage was the most appealing factor of Wi-Fi calling (50 percent), followed by the removal of roaming charges (49 percent), its native functionality and seamless handover (both 47 percent), as well as the lack of need for logging in (42 percent).

The technology led to an increase in voice usage among 61 percent of users, with 62 percent saying overall call quality also improved. The report found smartphone users that had Wi-Fi calling were 1.5 times more likely to be loyal customers of their operators that provide the service.

However, the report suggested consumers were keen to improve the quality of their Wi-Fi in order to take advantage of the tech. Sixty percent of consumers said they were investing in repeaters and routers.

The report warned operators needed to overcome several issues in order to capitalise on the demand for Wi-Fi calling. Among the problems listed were how call quality depended on Wi-Fi bandwidth (58 percent), inconsistent quality (53 percent) and high power consumption (45 percent).

The report said: "Fixing these issues early will help to meet consumer expectations and ensure that Wi-Fi calling finds its voice in the future communication era."

EE launched its Wi-Fi calling service in April, with Swisscom and Vodafone UK set to follow this summer.