University of Michigan
News for Faculty and Staff

October 23, 2017

WiFi improving cell phone calling on the Ann Arbor campus

March 24, 2016

WiFi improving cell phone calling on the Ann Arbor campus

Have you ever tried to make a cell phone call on campus, just to have it fail? You are not alone. Many buildings on the Ann Arbor campus have poor cellular coverage.

Now the ability to make calls on campus is taking a big step forward.

Over the past year, cellular carriers started to enable WiFi calling on select devices. WiFi calling routes calls and text messages over WiFi instead of cellular networks, and it may be a solution for many faculty, staff and students.

Verizon Wireless is the latest carrier to enable this feature for its customers. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Project Fi all previously added WiFi calling options to their service offerings.

WiFi calling lets you call, text and use voicemail as you do on a cellular network. Calls will only travel over WiFi when a cellular signal is weak or unavailable.

WiFi calling is not available on every device. Users should check with their carrier to see if it is available on their device. ITS has created a WiFi calling chart with carrier information and a list of devices with WiFi calling options.

ITS is upgrading WiFi in 275 buildings on the Ann Arbor campus. This improved WiFi coverage will have a significant impact on the ability to utilize WiFi calling in buildings on campus. To check the status of a building go to the project website at its.umich.edu/wifiupgrade.

"WiFi calling will go a long way to increase the ability to make mobile phone calls in some areas on campus. This is especially important in newly constructed buildings, where new eco friendly building materials are not friendly to RF (radio frequency) signals," said Andy Palms, executive director of ITS Communications Systems and Data Centers.

"We experienced some significant challenges last fall with the opening of the Munger Graduate Residences. RF signals could not penetrate the building and cellular calling was a real challenge for students. WiFi calling is one of the solutions that mitigate this problem.

"We continue to work with the carriers to improve cellular coverage on campus, but WiFi calling puts some of the control over coverage back in our hands."

Once a user determines their device is capable of WiFi calling and that their carrier provides this service, they can configure their device. Go to the phone settings menu on the device and turn on WiFi calling. With native WiFi calling, additional software or apps are not needed.

Users should call their carrier for assistance configuring their device, and with any questions on their WiFi calling capabilities. 

Tags: WiFi, cell phones