Microcell v. WiFi Calling

nightcap965

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Original poster
Feb 11, 2004
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679
Cape Cod
I live in a small town next to a big wide open space, and my AT&T reception is rotten. When we first moved in, we got an AT&T Microcell, and never have a problem with our phones. Thanks to construction work in the house, I'm having the opportunity to compare WiFi Calling to Microcell.

Microcell is better. Much better. Under WiFi Calling, I have a solid WiFi signal (via Apple Airport Extreme), but phone calls are dropped, one side of the conversation is frequently lost, and incoming calls are missed.

Never happens when the Microcell is plugged in.
 

eyoungren

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Aug 31, 2011
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My opinion is solely based on the fact that I am paying for unlimited data so my preference is for a femtocell.

I've owned two femtocells and while I subconciously understand that they use my home network as backhaul I still prefer a cellular signal even though I've had two phones capable of WiFi calling.

I think too, I have too many devices on my home network all clamoring for data that WiFi calling would probably just drop on me.

The other thing is having to explain to my wife how to use it. She just wants to pick up her phone and make a call.

PS. Your avatar is STILL cool!
 
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decafjava

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Feb 7, 2011
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Geneva
Got the same for my flat, what a difference. Not a fan of wifi if I can help it - though I usually use it when I am travelling and using dodgy wifi in some cafe or hotel - like in Greece last year. GRRRRR.
 

geoff5093

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Sep 16, 2014
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Dover, NH
Just because you have WiFi calling and you are on WiFi, doesn't mean you are using WiFi calling. It's my understanding that T-Mobile is the exception, with AT&T and other carriers using WiFi calling only if the cellular signal is non-existent or very weak. That would explain why you get dropped calls.
 

Boyd01

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Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
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New Jersey Pine Barrens
I have a situation similar to the OP, can sometimes get a usable signal in the yard but rarely inside the house so I've had a Microcell for about 6 years. I have seen other threads here that suggest battery life is impacted if you have a weak cell signal and the phone keeps searching/switching to wifi calling. That doesn't happen with my Microcell, the phone switches to it when I get out of the car and stays with it. So I have not bothered to test wifi calling, "if it ain't broke…" ;)

FWIW @eyoungren, I had the unlimited AT&T data plan until recently. With my 2 year contract 450 plan, calls made with the microcell (femtocell) were treated like any other call and counted towards my monthly plan. They were not treated like "data".
 

eyoungren

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FWIW @eyoungren, I had the unlimited AT&T data plan until recently. With my 2 year contract 450 plan, calls made with the microcell (femtocell) were treated like any other call and counted towards my monthly plan. They were not treated like "data".
We're on T-Mobile and our new femtocell is the 4G/LTE Cellspot. It's intended to improve calling (which it does) but the fact that it's LTE means it's also serving up data when my phone is on cellular. And my phone is always on cellular - except when I am forced to WiFi by circumstance.

When we were on Sprint we had the 3G Airave. Since calls on the Sprint network are on 1xRTT it was just fine for calling (up until September of last year) but I had to have WiFi on because our phones picked up the weaker LTE signal from the actual macro tower and data was poor. I could have forced 3G but even with the femtocell data over 3G was bad.

In any case, both with Sprint and T-Mobile we have truly unlimited. Voice, messaging, data so that's what I intend to use at all times (since I pay for it). Everything we use over the femtocell counts, but with unlimited everything it's not something I monitor with any intensity.

Now, I say use. Some might misconstrue that to mean abuse - which is not the case. I'm not downloading OS install DVDs on my phone or streaming video. I use my Macs/PCs for that.
 

lordhamster

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Jan 23, 2008
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281
I live in a small town next to a big wide open space, and my AT&T reception is rotten. When we first moved in, we got an AT&T Microcell, and never have a problem with our phones. Thanks to construction work in the house, I'm having the opportunity to compare WiFi Calling to Microcell.

Microcell is better. Much better. Under WiFi Calling, I have a solid WiFi signal (via Apple Airport Extreme), but phone calls are dropped, one side of the conversation is frequently lost, and incoming calls are missed.

Never happens when the Microcell is plugged in.
I'd suggest it has to do with either:
a) your wifi network
b) how AT&T implemented wifi calling

I have had zero issues using wifi calling all over the world with T-Mobile... the call quality is fantastic. You may want to look into a router with some QOS functions
 

jetsam

macrumors 6502a
Jul 28, 2015
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I live in a small town next to a big wide open space, and my AT&T reception is rotten. When we first moved in, we got an AT&T Microcell, and never have a problem with our phones. Thanks to construction work in the house, I'm having the opportunity to compare WiFi Calling to Microcell.

Microcell is better. Much better. Under WiFi Calling, I have a solid WiFi signal (via Apple Airport Extreme), but phone calls are dropped, one side of the conversation is frequently lost, and incoming calls are missed.

Never happens when the Microcell is plugged in.
I've been using AT&T Wi-Fi calling since the day it was activated, and found it to be superb.

Cellular reception inside my house is typically -110 dBm or worse. Upon arriving home, my iPhone 6 Plus instantly switches to AT&T Wi-Fi. I've never had less than excellent voice quality, and hand-offs to VoLTE are seamless and undetectable.

I have 75/5 Comcast service, and am using an Asus RT-N66R router.
 

Boyd01

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Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
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New Jersey Pine Barrens
I have 75/5 Comcast service, and am using an Asus RT-N66R router.
Well… in many areas where there's poor cell service, there's also poor internet service. ;) My only option is Verizon DSL. Recently I clocked it at about 1mbit/sec. Was actually pretty excited about that, they seem to have upgraded because in the past I rarely got better than 750kbit.
 

lordhamster

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Jan 23, 2008
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Well… in many areas where there's poor cell service, there's also poor internet service. ;) My only option is Verizon DSL. Recently I clocked it at about 1 mbit/sec. Was actually pretty excited about that, they seem to have upgraded because in the past I rarely got better than 750kbit.
The biggest factor in VOIP isn't the throughput as much as it is the latency of the connection. Low latency connections <20ms will generally yield much better VOIP results. A modern upgraded router like the Asus RT-N66R will help quite a bit as well.
 

XTheLancerX

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Aug 20, 2014
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NY, USA
I've been using AT&T Wi-Fi calling since the day it was activated, and found it to be superb.

Cellular reception inside my house is typically -110 dBm or worse. Upon arriving home, my iPhone 6 Plus instantly switches to AT&T Wi-Fi. I've never had less than excellent voice quality, and hand-offs to VoLTE are seamless and undetectable.

I have 75/5 Comcast service, and am using an Asus RT-N66R router.
Similar situation in my house but I'm on Verizon and I have worse internet (TWC standard deal, 15 down 1 up). I feel like my phone will be switching between wifi calling and LTE/regular wifi all the time, maybe stay on normal LTE/wifi all the time because currently where I'm sitting, I get -108dbm of LTE, that still gets 3 bars apparently though... Probably 5 feet over around the corner in the living room where I usually sit, I get like -118 to -114 of LTE, 1 bar. My bedroom however gets like -98 or so, 3 bars. All this somehow still gets me like 15-20mbps down and like 5 up, I think usually about 80 ping. I get perfect VoLTE service and I've never had a call drop. It's weird the service is so good yet I have such bad readings. No clue what my phone will think, wifi calling or regular, whenever Verizon implements wifi calling haha. Probably will just force wifi calling with airplane mode to conserve battery.
 

jimbo1mcm

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Mar 21, 2010
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Verizon fringe area. I use a Verizon femtocell made by Samsung that usually works very well. When it went south, I downloaded a Verizon app that uses wifi and that also worked very well. Nice to have a backup.
 

jasie02

macrumors 6502a
Sep 18, 2014
777
241
AT&T Wifi calling is also work well for me. I did test out wifi calling with airplane mode on and wifi enable. It does work very well with call and hours in meeting.
 

nightcap965

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Feb 11, 2004
676
679
Cape Cod
I'd suggest it has to do with either:
a) your wifi network
b) how AT&T implemented wifi calling

I have had zero issues using wifi calling all over the world with T-Mobile... the call quality is fantastic. You may want to look into a router with some QOS functions
Thanks for the tip. It's taken a while, but I recently updated the router and my Internet bandwidth, so I'm trying again with AT&T Wifi. So far, I can't see a difference.
 

techwarrior

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Jul 30, 2009
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Colorado
Just because you have WiFi calling and you are on WiFi, doesn't mean you are using WiFi calling. It's my understanding that T-Mobile is the exception, with AT&T and other carriers using WiFi calling only if the cellular signal is non-existent or very weak. That would explain why you get dropped calls.
I second this. When Wi-Fi calling first came out on ATT, I had been using a Micro Cell with mixed results. My ATT signal was 0-4 bars in my home. I had very few issues with MicroCell because my office (where I take most cell calls) had 0-1 bars and relied on Microcell. My wife usually took calls in an area of the home where the signal ranged from 2-4 bars and had a lot of one-way, dropped, garbled calls. Wi-Fi calling worked similar with her having mixed results and mine working pretty well. As it turns out, ATT "favors" using their LTE network and will switch to it whenever there are 3+ bars. The handoff is not without issues, so fluctuations in the signal were problematic. Even in the best reception areas, we saw 2-4 bars, the tower sat at the top of a hill next to the Interstate and roaming 3G\LTE users on the freeway during heavy traffic caused a lot of signal fluctuations in our home (confirmed by their engineers).

After a few months of this, we switched to T-Mobile and Wi-Fi calling is always active in all locations in our home, Wi-Fi is pretty good throughout the home. We never have issues anymore unless we turn off Wi-Fi on our phones.

So, if your LTE\3G signal is consistently less than 3 bars, both should work pretty well, but I think you have to go all-in with one and disable the other. I found myself having to reboot the Micro Cell pretty often, not so with Wi-Fi. Finally, if Wi-Fi calling is enabled, it will work on any Wi-Fi you join, so at work my signal is 1-2 bars and Wi-Fi calling is excellent, as it is in friends homes and other Wi-Fi I commonly use. Since Wi-Fi calling is an on\off setting, using it results in better calling experiences in more places than relying on Micro Cell at home.

But, as long as Ma Bell insists on favoring their LTE network, both solutions will be problematic. I suggest looking at another carrier.
 
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BeefCake 15

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May 15, 2015
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I was just talking to AT&T about my home and work signal are really bad at 1 bar and only they do is recommend WiFi calling...if that's the case, what's the point of the #1 network in America commercials. I can switch to T-Mobile and use WiFi calling with them for less money.
 

theshoehorn

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Jul 6, 2010
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I occasionally have my calls bounce back and forth between the AT&T mobile network and Wifi calling multiple times on a call. Never dropped, never garbled or one way. Always works perfectly for me!
 
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eyoungren

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I was just talking to AT&T about my home and work signal are really bad at 1 bar and only they do is recommend WiFi calling...if that's the case, what's the point of the #1 network in America commercials. I can switch to T-Mobile and use WiFi calling with them for less money.
Hmm…yeah see I've never understood the point of WiFi calling itself.

You as the customer pay your carrier for cellular service. Carrier takes your money but tells you "Use WiFi to make phone calls!" What?!

Why not cancel service altogether and use a phone that leverages Google Voice if you're going to do WiFi calling. That's free and guess what? It works on WiFi! Just like the WiFi calling the carrier told you to use!

Ah, but WiFi calling is only when you're on WiFi! And you have a carrier plan for when you aren't. Considering that a majority of carrier customers on capped plans are on WiFi all the time anyway - what's the difference?

Sorry, but WiFi calling is the answer the carriers use for not getting their network together. Pay them to not use the service you are paying them for? Right… :(
 
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cynics

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Jan 8, 2012
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Hmm…yeah see I've never understood the point of WiFi calling itself.

You as the customer pay your carrier for cellular service. Carrier takes your money but tells you "Use WiFi to make phone calls!" What?!

Why not cancel service altogether and use a phone that leverages Google Voice if you're going to do WiFi calling. That's free and guess what? It works on WiFi! Just like the WiFi calling the carrier told you to use!

Ah, but WiFi calling is only when you're on WiFi! And you have a carrier plan for when you aren't. Considering that a majority of carrier customers on capped plans are on WiFi all the time anyway - what's the difference?

Sorry, but WiFi calling is the answer the carriers use for not getting their network together. Pay them to not use the service you are paying them for? Right… :(
Regardless of network quality there can be dead zones like in basements, large buildings, etc. Wifi calling helps alleviate those.

With Verizon it seems to favor cellular for me, however occasionally it jumps to wifi. You can always just turn it off even if its out of spite. I watch games over a buddies and his basement must be a Faraday cage because regardless of provider there is no signal however with wifi calling its not an issue.

Admittedly a real dead zone for no apparent reason other then lack of infrastructure sucks however its nice to at least have the option.
 

eyoungren

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Aug 31, 2011
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Regardless of network quality there can be dead zones like in basements, large buildings, etc. Wifi calling helps alleviate those.

With Verizon it seems to favor cellular for me, however occasionally it jumps to wifi. You can always just turn it off even if its out of spite. I watch games over a buddies and his basement must be a Faraday cage because regardless of provider there is no signal however with wifi calling its not an issue.

Admittedly a real dead zone for no apparent reason other then lack of infrastructure sucks however its nice to at least have the option.
Sure, there are always exceptions. But in general…that's they way I see it.

My house is not a Faraday cage, I live in a large city and it's one story. The best T-Mobile can give me is 4G where I'm at. It's strong signal (about 13mbps down) but it's still 4G. I compensate by using a LTE femtocell.

Which has T-Mobile using my network for backhaul, but that's another thread (same complaint).

My point, is that it shouldn't be used by the carriers as an excuse to avoid spending dollars to upgrade/update problem areas.
 

I7guy

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I live in a fringe reception probably never will change due to zoning, have a solid internet service and network extender. Network extender works great, but on 10.3 I started to turn on airplane mode with wifi. Battery life is much better than before and call quality is better than network extender. Swipe up on control panel tap airplane mode and wifi, done. Reverse to leave house. I bought the r8000 netgear router and wifi in the house is covered.
 

theshoehorn

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Jul 6, 2010
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My point, is that it shouldn't be used by the carriers as an excuse to avoid spending dollars to upgrade/update problem areas.
So because my basement has low service, AT&T/Verizon/etc. should come and install a tower closer to me? I have fantastic service with AT&T elsewhere in my city but I don't expect them to have awesome service in my house, in my basement. Wifi Calling isn't there to keep them from building infrastructure. I'd love full bars in my house, but that doesn't mean they can come to every single building in the country to ensure people have top notch coverage.

My opinion, but it's more of an assistance than an excuse.
 

techwarrior

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Jul 30, 2009
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You as the customer pay your carrier for cellular service. Carrier takes your money but tells you "Use WiFi to make phone calls!" What?!
Wi-Fi calling is not true VoIP service, it is merely the last mile network segment. When Wi-Fi calling goes active, the phone registers with the carriers network via your ISP's network rather than the carrier's network, calls still use the carrier's network to transmit both signaling and media to the other end. True VoIP would enable peer to peer RTP streams and bypass the carrier's network completely.

Wi-Fi calling is just a more convenient way than putting femtocells everywhere. There are practical limits to how much equipment carriers can deploy, including over saturation which would cripple service for all. It is a balance act and Wi-Fi supplements the limitations of the technology carriers are forced to live with.

If your mobile phone is exclusively used in your home with Wi-Fi calling, then a true VoIP solution would make more sense than buying services from a carrier. But, most of us use our phones in a variety of locations, including places where no Wi-Fi exists. This is the value carriers provide, a single number, single service to use everywhere you go.

I often wonder what things will look like when 5G becomes the norm. Given the trend towards unlimited calling, the game is now more about providing data service everywhere versus providing calling services. Perhaps calling will be de-coupled at some point, and we will buy network access and use whatever calling service we want over the carrier's data networks...
 
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eyoungren

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So because my basement has low service, AT&T/Verizon/etc. should come and install a tower closer to me? I have fantastic service with AT&T elsewhere in my city but I don't expect them to have awesome service in my house, in my basement. Wifi Calling isn't there to keep them from building infrastructure. I'd love full bars in my house, but that doesn't mean they can come to every single building in the country to ensure people have top notch coverage.

My opinion, but it's more of an assistance than an excuse.
No, that isn't my point.

I am speaking in general in certain areas where macro towers and equipment can and should be upgrade but are not because the carrier isn't spending any money to do so.

I don't mean they should come to every basement to ensure fuil bars and full speed. There are exceptions to my general statement.