Is Wi-Fi calling all it is cracked up to be?

We’ve entered the age of the new business traveller. With technological advancements such as in-flight Wi-Fi and time saving apps such as the Apple Passbook, travel time between destinations, in the air, at the hotel and on the go are no longer lost business hours. The new business traveller is able to remain available, proactive and efficient no matter where they are in the world.

One of the most recent innovations in business travel is Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling is the ability to make and receive voice calls via a Wi-Fi network as opposed to the traditional network provider’s connection. It is crucial that business travellers evaluate potential security risks and threats to productivity however before harnessing Wi-Fi calling as a realistic means of communication whilst travelling abroad. These risks differ dependent on which platform or provider you use to carry out a Wi-Fi call.

WiFi calling

When considering productivity, it is absolutely vital that Wi-Fi calling is as efficient and reliable as using traditional methods. Research carried out by Ericsson ConsumerLab entitled Wi-Fi calling finds its voice; found that only 3 in 10 people were satisfied with voice call quality, coverage and reliability.

EE recently launched its Wi-Fi calling on a selection of handsets – allowing users to carry out Wi-Fi calls from their device without venturing into a separate application. This seems to make good sense until you step outside of your mobile networks range. Unfortunately EE’s Wi-Fi calling is not intuitive enough to automatically transfer your call to your mobile network - you'll immediately be cut off.

Another thing to note is that EE's Wi-Fi calling is currently limited to the UK – meaning that using this as a legitimate, efficient enabler for business travel is not yet an option.

Despite the current levels of excitement about it, Wi-Fi calling has in fact been readily available for years via Skype, Viber, Three, O2 and more recently WhatsApp. These examples work on a standalone basis with a separate call log and message flow to your device within an application, meaning that users need to track missed calls and conversations inside and outside of the app – a little time consuming perhaps? Security and encryption on these platforms is also a key factor to determine whether they are legitimate methods of facilitating both business and personal communication.

Take WhatsApp for example, which introduced Wi-Fi calling earlier this year, there is no evidence to prove that messages sent via the app, let alone voice calls are encrypted. German security researchers from Heise Security found that the iOS app’s end-to-end encryption was in fact allowing messages to be intercepted. This type of reliance on Wi-Fi means that business travellers could be putting sensitive business information directly into hacker’s hands.

There is no doubt however that Wi-Fi calling is an innovative, forward thinking means of communication yet its usability and appropriateness for business travel is questionable. With the age of the new business traveller well under way; communication needs to remain secure no matter where you are in the world. Business travellers need to ensure they understand the risks that are associated with Wi-Fi calling and consider alternatives to ensure that the ‘easy’ method is not the one that costs the user valuable business data or a vital sales call dropping due to transitioning outside of the Wi-Fi Zone.

Goodspeed is a safe, efficient alternative with productivity and stress free roaming at the core of its business model; ensuring business communication is never interrupted and allowing users to work proactively on the go safe in the knowledge that they will stay connected whether at home or abroad.

- Hanne @Uros