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What is WiFi calling? (And what's so great about it?)

Ring Central Blog

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9 min read

Updated September 2021

WiFi calling helps businesses embrace the hybrid workplace. Increasingly, teams are working from different locations. As such, the virtual workforce needs communications tools to match. WiFi calling is one such tool, enabling easy, seamless remote communications. It’s a low-cost, secure, all-in-one communications solution for the future. 

Here you’ll find all the information you need to get your team using WiFi calling asap. We’ll be discussing:


☎️ Need a new communications tool for your business? Here’s a checklist to help you pick the right one.

Buyer's checklist for communication tools

Enjoy!



What is WiFi calling?

WiFi calling is just what it sounds like: the process of making and receiving voice and video calls over a WiFi connection. Usually, this is done through apps or software—for example, RingCentral uses this technology in both the desktop and mobile app. This allows you to make calls through the internet, rather than through your carrier network, cell towers, or landlines. By bypassing traditional cellular services, it means calls can come through, even in places where voice services are usually compromised. 

In other words, WiFi calling allows you to make calls over any wireless internet connection. As such, businesses that use WiFi calling don’t need to rely on the services of a traditional telecommunications provider. Low signal strength no longer means you can’t get in touch. As with a standard connection, you can still make emergency calls.

As long as you have an internet connection, you can stay connected even if cellular networks fail. And as current working trends move more and more towards remote and hybrid working cultures, WiFi calling systems are key to allowing employees to work from anywhere. 

💡 Pro-tip: 

Most WiFi calling works through a voice over internet protocol system (or VoIP for short). If you’ve ever wondered how WhatsApp and Skype work, there’s your answer. RingCentral’s communications platform uses VoIP, providing enhanced calling experiences, as well as bypassing expensive cellular company rates.

Is WiFi calling free?

Often, your service provider includes the cost of WiFi calling. But it’s worth checking with your particular provider to make sure. Some providers may have an additional charge for international long-distance calls, but you should receive a voice prompt to warn you of this in advance before proceeding with the call.

If you want to use WiFi calling from your computer, you’ll usually need to download an app. Popular WiFi calling providers like Skype and Google Hangouts are one option, and are great for personal calls with family and friends.

However, businesses on the other hand are likely to need more dedicated providers, which is where platforms like RingCentral step in. These businesses  tend to benefit from a VoIP hosting service that’s part of an all-inclusive communications platform, with more robust security features (and other work-related features). For these businesses, which may need to make many long-distance calls, all their employees can just use the app and talk as much as they want—at a very low cost.

💡 Pro-tip: 

While most folks are fine just using a mobile or desktop app to do WiFi calling, more mature businesses may also want to invest in VoIP phones and conference calling headphones.

Is WiFi calling safe?

WiFi calling technology has been developed to have a certain degree of security, but be aware that different companies offer different levels of security. Do some research and pick a provider that can give you sufficient security for your business and industry. Things to consider include:

  1. Whether the call is made over a public or private WiFi network
  2. Whether the calling app encrypts your data
  3. How secure your mobile service provider’s encryption is

Usually, if you make a call through a well-known app over a private WiFi network, you can trust it will be secure. However, making calls on hotspot networks and public WiFi networks does open you up to some risks, even if your network provider encrypts the call. 

A VoIP provider should detail any security measures they have in place. RingCentral, for instance, has extensive data security methods including:

These, among others, make sure that any WiFi calls you make are safe and secure.

💡 Pro-tip: 

See how this award-winning real estate firm moved to WiFi calling—and cut its telecom costs by 58%.

 

How does WiFi calling work?

WiFi calling is a lot like a regular cell phone call. The difference is how the call is transmitted. WiFi calls use an available WiFi network instead of your phone’s data to transmit a call.

One example of WiFi calling would be a FaceTime audio call. These calls only work iPhone to iPhone, via the two parties’ WiFi networks.


The benefits of WiFi calling

WiFi calling is beneficial for numerous reasons. Most notably, it allows you to communications from the most remote locations, as long as there’s an internet connection available. That means you can make voice calls and send messages whether you’re indoors, outdoors, or even underground. 

RingCentral’s WiFi calling on mobile devices lets you make calls without using your airtime minutes as well—along with other useful calling options like putting someone on hold or transferring the call:

more conference call options in ringcentral android app

Combined with a level of connectivity that far surpasses even the most powerful of cellular signals, it’s perfect for working from anywhere.

WiFi calling also comes with these other useful benefits:

How to record a phone call on Android and iPhone

Read the blog


The 5 best WiFi calling providers

WiFi calling options are becoming increasingly common. It all started when Apple incorporated WiFi calling capabilities with the iPhone 6 all the way back in 2014. Today, WiFi calling is supported by most cell phone networks. 

However! It’s important to note that not all mobile phones support WiFi calling. To make use of this feature, you usually need an HD voice-enabled phone and you’ll need to activate the HD voice enablement feature. Some mobile devices that do support WiFi calling include Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Huawei, and Samsung. 

If your mobile device isn’t WiFi calling enabled, don’t worry. You still have plenty of other options. Lots of providers facilitate effective communications over the internet. These include:

1. RingCentral

Cloud phone systems like RingCentral offer cloud-based PBX phone systems. These virtual PBX systems are rooted in the internet, automatically answering all calls and routing them to the appropriate department.  

The RingCentral app uses WiFi calling to give both iOS and Android users these same benefits. In fact, WiFi calling technology is a calling card for RingCentral and the cornerstone of the app:

That being said, RingCentral has also made leaps and bounds—and today, the app lets you not only make phone calls over the internet, but also message your team and even have video conferences. Here’s a quick look at how it works:

And that’s not all. Because the WiFi calling feature is built into an all-in-one platform, that means that you can do neat things like switch between a voice and video call—without interrupting the conversation…

flip from Call to Video

Flip your call from your computer to your phone (and vice versa), just in case you need to step away from the desk for a second:

switch call from video to phone

The RingCentral app is designed to make you more productive—no matter where you’re working—and really takes WiFi calling to the next level.


🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral makes WiFi calling accessible from anywhere by booking a product tour:

💰 You can also use this calculator to see roughly how much your business could save by using RingCentral to support your team’s communication with each other—and clients.


🏆 Did you know: 

RingCentral is a PCMag’s Editors’ Choice Award winner because of its reliable service and easy-to-use app (among other reasons)!

2. Grasshopper

Grasshopper is a virtual phone system offering online call management and an intuitive interface, useful for business with a large call volume. Users are free to retain their current numbers or opt for a new, free, number.  

3. Google Voice

To use this app, users only need an internet connection and a Google account. Users can call any device connected to their account and set individual call preferences. This is a free of charge service that boasts reliable servers.

4. Skype

Skype-to-Skype calls are completely free and can be used on any supporting device. Users only have to pay for Skype’s premium features. These include voicemail, SMS, and calls made to devices outside of Skype like landlines or cell phone numbers. Users will need an existing WiFi connection or data plan. 

5. WhatsApp

WhatsApp uses Voice over IP technology to enable users to make calls over an internet connection as opposed to traditional cellular networks. All users need is a mobile device connected to a WiFi network to make free WhatsApp calls.

Frequently asked questions

What is the point of WiFi calling?

WiFi calling boasts many excellent features. It facilitates communication from anywhere, regardless of traditional mobile network restrictions. Take the RingCentral app as an example. The service lets mobile phone users take their work anywhere with integrated HD voice, fax, text, conferencing, and online meetings. 

That’s great news for businesses that are moving to a hybrid work model where part of the team is distributed. Having an all-in-one platform allows you to reliably make and receive VoIP calls over WiFi—even while traveling internationally. Plus, employees can use a single business identity with one business number for calling, messaging, and faxing. 

To recap, with WiFi calling, you:

What’s the difference between VoIP and WiFi calling?

VoIP

VoIP calling, or voice over Internet Protocol, delivers telecommunications services over the internet. In other words, anyone can place phone calls over an internet connection. Your voice is transmitted from your chosen device, through the router, to a digitization portal before being forwarded as a data packet.

Think of it like your voice being packaged in a digital envelope. It’s transported over the internet to its recipient. They then receive their packet—or envelope—of data, and they hear what you said. It just all happens near-instantaneously.    

This allows you to make long-distance, lengthy, calls without racking up an expensive phone bill. All VoIP users have to do is pay their provider a set monthly fee, and VoIP is flexible and functional across multiple devices. You can make VoIP calls through:

  1. VoIP phones
  2. Standard phones with an appropriate adapter
  3. Softphones and other software on a PC
  4. Third-party apps on mobile devices 

WiFi calling

WiFi calling is a little different. When WiFi calling is enabled, you can make mobile calls without a cellular connection. WiFi systems take the place of mobile towers and instead, offer a calling service that works alongside your usual internet connection provisions. 

Mobile WiFi calls can work via an app or through your phone itself. Computer-based WiFi calls work slightly differently, as computer-to-phone programs let you make free calls from your PC or Mac to a real telephone number. PC-to-PC internet calling can also facilitate free phone calls between computers.

WiFi calling: How hybrid workforces can work together, from anywhere

As the workforce turns virtual and working from anywhere becomes the new normal, WiFi calling is stepping in to help us continue to have quality, streamlined communications from all around the world. The need to be “always-on” is here to stay, especially with companies being more mobile and distributed.

Because of this, businesses need to start seriously considering how to incorporate WiFi calling into their day-to-day work in order to keep their dispersed teams connected. Without the traditional roadblocks associated with network coverage area limitations and high international rates, we’re all set to enjoy greater work freedom in the very near future. 

Originally published Dec 17, 2020, updated Sep 23, 2021

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