Following AT&T's lead, Verizon Wireless now plans to enable Wi-Fi calling on its network as well, petitioning the FCC for a waiver that would grant it the option.

Enabling Wi-Fi calling is not as simple as some might think, as teletypewriter (TTY) support is a notable hurdle. TTY is a decades-old service for the hearing impaired, allowing them to participate in a telephone call by using a screen and a small QWERTY keyboard. Wi-Fi calling cannot reliable support TTY, however, to a degree that would guarantee that TTY transmissions work smoothly over Wi-Fi.

This, in turn, represents a hurdle in enabling Wi-Fi calling, but carriers have taken steps to overcome this issue. The FCC normally requires carriers that offer Wi-Fi calling to offer TTY over Wi-Fi as well.

Not too long ago, AT&T submitted a petition to the FCC requesting a waiver to enable Wi-Fi calling although it couldn't reliably support TTY over Wi-Fi. The FCC granted AT&T that waiver, allowing the carrier to enable Wi-Fi calling by end-2017 while working on technology to replace the TTY system.

The other two major U.S. carriers, Sprint and T-Mobile, ignored the TTY requirement altogether and started offering Wi-Fi calling without bothering to petition the FCC for a waiver. When it submitted its petition, AT&T complained about Sprint and T-Mobile's practices in this regards, but the FCC decided not to punish the two carriers. At the same time, the FCC encouraged other carriers in the same position as AT&T to make similar requests.

Verizon apparently wants to play by the book, but considers this waiver unnecessary. Nevertheless, Big Red now follows AT&T in asking the FCC for a similar waiver so it can enable Wi-Fi calling on its own network.

"Although it is Verizon's position that neither the existing rules nor the AT&T Waiver Order require such a waiver for a provider of IP-enabled wireless voice services, out of an abundance of caution in light of the recent AT&T Waiver Order, Verizon conditionally seeks the same relief afforded to AT&T," Verizon notes in its petition to the FCC.

Considering that AT&T got its way, the FCC should extend Verizon the same courtesy and grant a waiver so that Big Red can start enabling Wi-Fi calling on its own network, although it doesn't have a viable TTY replacement just yet.

For now, only Verizon users on iOS can use Wi-Fi calling thanks to a special Verizon Messages app for iOS, but the FCC waiver would allow the carrier to extend the functionality to Android users as well.

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