Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

July 29, 2021

Is Wi-Fi Calling Free?

Not much is free anymore, but is Wi-Fi calling free? Yup — for the most part.

Wi-Fi calling is safe and convenient. It uses VoIP (Voice of Internet Protocol) technology, which has been around for years supporting popular apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Those apps are free to use, but each person has to have the app installed.

But Wi-Fi calling is no longer limited to these types of apps. Now most major cell carriers support Wi-Fi calling, and it’s easy to enable on newer Android and iPhone devices.

When WiFi calling is enabled, you can make and receive phone calls (and send and receive text messages) anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection with a decent speed. This is especially useful when you have weak cell service (or no cell service at all) because it doesn’t require being close to a tower — it just relies on the strength of the nearest Wi-Fi network.

Of course, not all Wi-Fi connections are equal. If you’re on a weak Wi-Fi network, you’re probably not going to get the best call quality — and the call may even drop. (This is why it’s great to have a cellular plan as a backup.)

How does Wi-Fi calling work?

When you use Wi-Fi calling, you’re not using data from your wireless plan — you’re consuming data over the Wi-Fi connection instead. Once you’ve set it up, it works automatically — letting you make calls on your device from your usual phone number.

With free Wi-Fi calling, you’re using your Apple or Android device to make a phone call, but without using your cellular provider to actually conduct the call. Your phone call is being supported by a nearby wireless connection (and those are pretty easy to find these days).

Does Wi-Fi calling mean I can cancel my cellular plan?

Wi-Fi calling is convenient to have, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an actual cell service plan. You’ll need a standard connection for those times when you’re not within Wi-Fi range — otherwise your call will be dropped and you’ll be out of luck.

Can I move around to different networks during a WiFi call?

Nope! Just like moving your laptop from your home to the library will drop your home Wi-Fi network and pick up the library’s Wi-Fi network once you arrive, free Wi-Fi calling work the same way.

The call must start and finish on the same Wi-Fi network. If you skip out of that network’s area, the call will drop — so be sure you don’t pace around and accidentally wander out of the zone.

So is Wi-Fi calling free … anywhere?!

WiFi calling is usually only free within your own country, and you’ll pay to place Wi-Fi calls to other countries (just like international calls cost more, if you have an unlimited nationwide plan).

Wi-Fi calling doesn’t work at all for “special” numbers, like 411, 211 or other services. It isn’t compatible with numbers that use symbols — like #TAXI — because a Wi-Fi call doesn’t have access to your location like a network call does.

If you try to call 911 via Wi-Fi calling, it will default to using a mobile network (since 911 calls work on devices that don’t even have cell plans). But if there isn’t cell service where you are, it will place the 911 call over Wi-Fi but with limited services.

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Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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