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Verizon follows AT&T, asks FCC to let it enable Wi-Fi calling

Verizon is finally taking steps to enable Wi-Fi calling on its network. The carrier has submitted a petition to the FCC requesting that the regulatory body grant it a waiver identical to the one it gave to AT&T earlier this month.

Enabling Wi-Fi calling is tricky because the underlying technology doesn't reliably support TTY (teletypewriter), a decades-old service used by the hearing impaired. AT&T complained to the FCC last month that competitors T-Mobile and Sprint merely disregarded the rules around TTY support when they launched Wi-Fi calling. To make matters worse, according to AT&T, the FCC was taking months to approve the carrier's outstanding petition to the FCC.

Verizon doesn't miss opportunity to take a shot at AT&T

After taking the matter public, AT&T was granted a waiver (under certain conditions) to enable Wi-Fi calling through the end of 2017 while testing on a replacement TTY system is underway. Much to AT&T's chagrin, however, the FCC did not punish T-Mobile or Sprint; instead, it invited "requests from similarly situated providers seeking a similar waiver of the TTY requirements."

Now, after sitting on the sidelines during AT&T's public spat, Verizon is taking advantage of that decision. In a brief petition, it asks for the same conditions as AT&T to enable Wi-Fi calling even though the replacement TTY technology, called RTT, is not yet ready. The carrier also takes the opportunity to take a shot at AT&T (and assert its position on government regulation). In a footnote, the company adds that "it is Verizon’s position that neither the existing rules nor the AT&T Waiver Order require such a waiver," but it is doing so "out of an abundance of caution."

Verizon already offers Wi-Fi calling on iOS devices through one of its own apps, but this waiver (when granted), will allow the carrier to support the truly integrated Wi-Fi calling in iOS 9 and on Android devices. That means your phone will automatically switch over to Wi-Fi when your network connection is weak (or nonexistent) so you can place and receive calls. There's no word yet on when that will be, but it's surely sooner rather than later at this point.