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Wi-Fi Calling, internet speeds

Tech Talk

Maybe you've seen a setting on your phone for Wi-Fi Calling and wondered what it is. How does it work? Do you need it? And what does it cost?

Wi-Fi Calling uses a Wi-Fi network instead of a cellular network for voice calls and texts. So if your home or office doesn't have good solid cell reception, your calls and texts can go out over the Wi-Fi signal. So technically, Wi-Fi calling should be called VoWiFi for Voice over Wi-Fi, which explains it better, but the marketing folks think otherwise.

Making voice calls and sending messages via Wi-Fi and the internet is not new. Apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Zoom use Wi-Fi and the internet to make calls and send messages. Instead of using your phone carrier's network (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) to make calls or send texts, your phone uses the internet through your Wi-Fi connection to send your calls or texts to your carrier's network.

The sound quality of a Wi-Fi call will be better than a cellular call if you've got poor or maybe even no reception on your phone. And yes, you might have a Wi-Fi signal available even if you don't have any cell reception. For example, you might live in a dead cell phone zone but can still get internet from Race, Spectrum, or a satellite provider. Wi-Fi Calling is a great way to go.

With Wi-Fi Calling turned on, if (when?) you move out of Wi-Fi range, your phone defaults back to cellular calling automatically.

And Wi-Fi Calling doesn't use up a lot of data to make your calls, maybe 1MB per minute, so it even works with limited data plans.

Most modern smartphones support Wi-Fi calling; look for it in the Phone section of your Settings page. You need to enter emergency location details once you enable Wi-Fi Calling, so emergency services can reach you if you're calling 911 while using Wi-Fi Calling. Some carriers require a few extra things turned on (HD Voice and VoLTE, mainly) but not AT&T or Verizon, at least for now.

It doesn't cost anything to use Wi-Fi Calling, and you can call anybody in your contact list, and they won't be able to tell your call isn't only using your carrier's cellular network. Wi-Fi Calling doesn't change your calling plan either. If you don't have international calling on your calling plan, you still won't have international calling if you use Wi-Fi Calling.

Internet speeds

Your internet provider (Race, Spectrum AT&T, etc.) offers packages with different download speeds. And, once you're signed up, they may offer even faster packages to you. But how much speed do you need?

Here are some everyday internet activities and the speed each requires:

Checking and responding to email requires about one megabit per second of download speed (Mbps.) Streaming music from Amazon Music or Spotify requires about 2 Mbps. Online shopping and browsing the internet require about 3 Mbps. Heavy social media use, online gaming, HD video streaming, and video calls need about 6 Mbps of download speed each. While streaming video at 4K resolution requires about 15 Mbps.

A good rule of thumb for most people is multiplying the number of internet users in the household by 25 Mbps. Most locally available internet packages start at 25 Mbps and go up to 1000 Mbps.

Good advice

"Don't believe everything you read on the internet just because they quote someone famous." - Abraham Lincoln

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has provided Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at [email protected].