Gifts that connect us - Get Free Google Pixel Buds Pro with your purchase of a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro, today, Online Only!
You can also get the Samsung S23 FE & iPhone SE for only $0.99 a month!
Check for service outages
drphil02's profile

Tutor

 • 

4 Messages

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 2:37 PM

AT&T WIFI calling vs. Microcell

I have been an AT&T customer for over 15 years and have seen the good and the bad in services and coverage. I also live in a fringe area and have minimal service at best. AT&T provided me with a Microcell years ago which was great and has served me well over the years. I don’t drop calls, I don’t have any issues making or receiving calls, and I always have five bars of service. Unfortunately, as technology pushes forward and new features and service implementations come of age, some of the older tried and true ones are phased out.

 

My issue revolves around the implementation of WIFI calling vs. the Microcell. With the microcell, when I placed a call that was within range, the call would stay on the microcell until I moved out of range and it would handoff to the nearest cell tower. As long as I left my house in the right direction to maintain a call I knew I could continue talking. and I always had five bars of service.

 

With the newer iPhone 6 on IOS 9 that all changed, and not for the better. As I have been told by AT&T, the Microcell firmware has not been updated to work with the iPhone 6 and is only designed to work with the iPhone 5 or below. Issues such as three-way calling wouldn’t work anymore without audio dropouts (hearing every other 4th word), and even after ending the call it would continue to happen with a new single party call. The fix, a reboot of the phone.

 

Now let’s talk WIFI calling, the wave of the future. Well the principals are the same as the Microcell, the Implementation however is spotty at best. Unlike the Microcell, when turned on, it isn’t "sticky" and is constantly switching back to cellular service. There are advantages to this if you are in an area that has good cell service; however, if you are in a fringe area this is a guaranteed drop call.

 

To try and resolve the issue I called AT&T support and tried to explain my issue to the representative. after about three or so minutes, she was completely confused and had no idea how to help me. Now for the best part. The issue I just described to her occurred, dropped call. So naturally I called back and got representative two.

 

This time I wasn’t on WIFI calling so I knew it was only a matter of time before the call would drop so I told her this up front. My hope was that she would call me back when the call dropped. We got a bit further in the conversation when you guessed it, the call dropped. I waited for about 5 minutes and no call back. I started to get a bit frustrated and called back again to get representative three.

 

This time I was back on WIFI so my chances, well let’s say the cards were not in my favor. I told the representative that she was lucky number three and explained my problem to her. She was going to unregister my phone from the network and let it re-provision. To do this I had to power off my phone and wait a bit before I power it back on. I said ok and low and behold guess what happened, I got dropped. So I went ahead and did what representative three said to do. Then I waited expecting her to call me back, and waited, and waited....... Nope, no call back. As you can imagine the level of frustration was mounting so I called back to get representative number four.

 

I told her right up front that she was representative number four and that when the call drops no one calls me back. She told me that she would put her phone in a different mode so that she wouldn’t receive another call if my call dropped. Now why couldn’t any of the other representatives figure out how to do that, they all knew that the call was likely to drop. I explained the issue to her and she had me repeat the registration procedure on the network. This time I did receive a call back and we continued to troubleshoot. She had me do a speed test on my network which I know was fine, but I went ahead and did it anyway. she concurred the results were within spec. This time I was able to hold a call for at least 20 minutes with the network switching between WIFI and cellular.

 

The funny thing about cell phones is they are a Radio Frequency (RF) device under all that digital that everyone markets. The carrier signal is still an analog RF signal that will constantly change as you move around or have interference from other RF signals. When you only have one, two, or even three bars of cellular signal I would expect the WIFI signal to be "locked in". I believe AT&T needs to change the threshold for what is considered a reliable signal before switching to cellular if I am connected with WIFI. I also believe the representatives need to be educated more in-depth on Local Area Networks (LAN). One of the troubleshooting steps should have been to look at the firewall rules that are on my network, not just running a speed test. And AT&T should have never considered the Microcell End of Life (EOL). Until WIFI calling has been in the wild for a couple of years the Microcell is still the best option for the fringe user.

 

 

 

 

ACE - Expert

 • 

64.6K Messages

8 years ago

As you can imagine, the issue of seemlessly passing a call between wifi and cellular is very technical and your suggestion that perhaps the threshold of when a phone does that needs to be adjusted may be spot on. In the meantime, there is a simple solution to force your phone not to go back and forth between wifi and cellular, just put your phone in airplane mode and turn wifi on. As long as you are going to stay within range of whatever wifi you are connected to, this method should prevent the dropping of calls. When you become mobile, simply take the phone out of airplane mode.

 

In my own case, I have always had about 1 bar of coverage in my home and my phone seems to stay on wifi calling all the time, so not sure exactly what that threshold is for swithing between wifi and cellular.

 

Now if you try this and continue to drop calls when wifi is the only option, that would suggest to me that your wifi connection is the real reason why your phone continues to go back and forth between wifi and cellular, not the threshold setting. In other words, perhaps your phone goes back to cellular because the wifi connection keeps dropping.

Tutor

 • 

4 Messages

8 years ago

Thanks for the reply.  I agree your suggestion will work; however, its a workaround for an issue that AT&T should never have let happen.  Its bad business to take older services away without having a new service tested and stable as a replacement.  At minimum,  AT&T should work with Apple to provide a switch under the WIFI calling options to make WIFI "Sticky" while within range or the threshold changed.  There are several modes of cellular service, ATT, ATT 3G, ATT 4G, and LTE.  The change that occurred in my area allowed for LTE calling which hammered the 3G calling that the Microcell is designed for. 

 

I use my phone for business during the day and work from home so as you can imagine it gets used a lot.  I have 5 other phones in my family that are used for personal calls which also drop calls due to this change in service.  Since I haven't been able to resolve the issue I have to assume that other customers in my situation exist.  My recommendation is to back out LTE calling and let the fringe users continue to use the Microcell on 3G until the issue can be sorted out. 

 

 

AT&T has other considerations that should be taken into account with this issue.  One that comes to mind that is more life threatening is 911 service.  If the WIFI calling service isn't working correctly and calls are dropping in a life threatening situation who is liable if the person dies?  If emergency responders cant get the information they need or provide the information the caller needs to maintain life until the appropriate emergency responders are on site?   AT&T needs to take this seriously. 

Tutor

 • 

4 Messages

8 years ago

BTW I just tried the suggested resolution provided and it doesn't work.  If I put the phone in airplane mode and turn WIFI on and place a call, it tells me that I need to take my phone out of airplane mode to place a call.  no better off.......

Contributor

 • 

1 Message

8 years ago

Thanks for the knowledge of this thread. I still have my M-Cell and live in NYC. That's how good cell service is here sometimes. I was debating taking off the M-Cell, but perhaps I won't now.

Contributor

 • 

2 Messages

8 years ago

I agree with you on your post... i was lucky on my third call with AT&T, they are sending me a new  microcell tower to resolve my "drop calls" issue. 

ACE - Sage

 • 

113.1K Messages

8 years ago


@drphil02 wrote:

BTW I just tried the suggested resolution provided and it doesn't work.  If I put the phone in airplane mode and turn WIFI on and place a call, it tells me that I need to take my phone out of airplane mode to place a call.  no better off.......


This only works with phones that have wifi calling enabled.  At this time only iPhone 6 and newer are able to do this.

 

 

Tutor

 • 

4 Messages

8 years ago

If you read the posts have it enabled and it doesn't work that way. Someone has given you mis-information

Voyager

 • 

2 Messages

7 years ago

I agree 100% on changing the threshold. My iPhone 6S Plus currentlly switches to Wifi Calling at -115 signal strength. I would like that to be atleast -90. However, the workaround of switching on airplane mode and turning on wifi works just fine. Only problem is I always forget to turn airplane mode off when I leave home or work so I never get any calls while driving. When I reach home and see my wife's frown thats when I know my phone is still on airplane mode.

Not finding what you're looking for?