AT&T granted FCC waiver to activate Wi-Fi calling amid tiff with T-Mobile, Sprint

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After decrying T-Mobile and Sprint's decision to roll out Wi-Fi calling without approval from the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T on Tuesday was granted a waiver to enable such features in the near future.

Last year AT&T initially announced its iteration of Wi-Fi calling would debut on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sometime in 2015, but the carrier has yet to make good on that promise. A limited segment of iOS 9 beta testers saw the feature go live in August only to find it deactivated with the public version of iOS 9 and the release of iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

As noted by AT&T, the reason for Wi-Fi calling's delayed launch was incompatibility with the FCC's requirements regarding teletypewriter, or teletype, services (TTY). In lieu of full TTY support, AT&T requested, and today received (PDF link), an exemption to deploy real-time text (RTT) services.

In a statement posted to AT&T's website, Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs Jim Cicconi offered his gratitude to the FCC, but questions the agency's handling of T-Mobile and Sprint.

We're grateful the FCC has granted AT&T's waiver request so we can begin providing Wi-Fi calling. At the same time we are left scratching our heads as to why the FCC still seems intent on excusing the behavior of T-Mobile and Sprint, who have been offering these services without a waiver for quite some time. Instead of initiating enforcement action against them, or at least opening an investigation, the agency has effectively invited them to now apply for similar waivers and implied that their prior flaunting of FCC rules will be ignored. This is exactly what we meant when our letter spoke of concerns about asymmetric regulation.

AT&T has yet to narrow down a prospective launch window for Wi-Fi calling, though initial iOS 9 beta testing proved the feature as viable on the carrier's network.