Feature Article

March 04, 2013

Wi-Fi vs. 4G: What Will be the Future of Mobile VoIP?

One of the features of VoIP is that it runs on the Internet, and there is no shortage of ways to access it, at home and on the go. VoIP users can connect to the Internet, and therefore to their VoIP service providers, on the go, using Wi-Fi or 4G.

This piece will outline the difference between the two, and touch on some of the companies that support each type.

Wi-Fi is a standard of using radio waves to wirelessly exchange data over a computer network. Many of us have wireless routers in our homes, which is indeed Wi-Fi. A Wi-Fi connection that is public, not private – like at a local coffee shop or across a college campus – is known as a Wi-Fi Hotspot. Many Internet service providers have hotspots in popular areas.

In the New York Metro Area, for example, we have Optimum Wi-Fi hotspots so that you can check your e-mail while waiting for the train. The classic example we use is a coffee shop, where you can sip coffee and write the next great American novel on your laptop.

The FCC has proposed free “Super Wi-Fi” hotspots that would blanket entire cities.

4G, also known as LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a high-speed cellular network, and is therefore used by the big four in US Telecommunications: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. 4G is significantly faster than 3G, firmly in the range of cable and fiber home and business networks.

AT&T has already proposed killing its land-based copper PSTN networks, with large rural areas to be serviced by 4G network.

The term for using VoIP over a 4G network is “VoLTE” or Voice over Long Term Evolution.

The notion of using only Wi-Fi for VoIP is an interesting one. One company, Republic Wireless, has a wireless phone system that connects to known Wi-Fi networks, and is probably the cheapest smartphone plan out there. Special software finds and automatically connects to Wi-Fi networks that have been programmed into the phone. It's a novel idea, but reviews are mixed as it beta tests its system.

Nationwide free Wi-Fi could open up the market to Republic Wireless, and companies like it, that offer smartphone service, complete with VoIP, that connect only to Wi-Fi networks.

A company called “FreedomPop” also had the idea of foregoing voice service in favor of a data plan only. FreedomPop has contracts with Sprint and ClearWire to provide a network of data, and subscribers could rely on Google or another VoIP service provider to give voice service over a 4G data network.

The great thing about the Internet, of course, is that either standard connects to the same Internet, making it possible that both technologies can exist side by side, inspiring innovation while keeping costs down.

Leave your comments below to vote how you think you'll be getting your VoIP in the future.

Edited by Braden Becker

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