In the hypercompetitive wireless market, mobile service providers are constantly pushing the envelope to bring better, faster and cheaper services to consumers. Such is the case with the ability to make voice calls over Wi-Fi networks, which enables consumers to make calls in areas that are challenging to serve, like deep indoors, underground and in remote parts of the country.  And because the wireless market moves at a hypercompetitive speed, with several competitors already offering Wi-Fi calling, we have requested that the FCC move with similar speed to act on AT&T’s waiver petition so we can deploy Wi-Fi while maintaining compliance with existing FCC rules.

As we prepare to roll out the service later this year, we’ve made it a top priority to ensure that the new technology is accessible to our customers who are deaf, hard of hearing or have experienced hearing loss, or have speech disabilities.  Some of these customers currently use a 1960’s era technology called a teletypewriter, or TTY.  Current FCC rules require voice services to be TTY- compatible, with specific requirements to transmit 911 (public safety) and 711 (telecom relay services) calls made from a TTY device. The challenge mobile service providers now face is that TTY doesn’t work reliably on Wi-Fi technology because of its sensitivity to packet loss and the considerable variance in Wi-Fi signal strength in real-world applications. We therefore have begun working to implement an alternate solution called Real-Time Text, or RTT.

RTT is designed to provide better functionality than TTY, working over Wi-Fi calling and other new IP-based networks. It’s superior to the 1960s era TTY in every way – transmission speed, latency, reliability, features, privacy, conversation form and ease of use.  We’ve provided demonstrations of this new and innovative technology and have received positive feedback from policymakers and disability groups. Once we implement RTT, it will be backwards compatible with TTY so our customers using RTT can still communicate with TTY users, including 911 centers.

In order to make all this happen, however, we need rule changes at the Commission to allow us to move from TTY to RTT, which is why we filed our petition.  While we finish development and implementation of RTT in AT&T’s network, we are also seeking a short-term waiver of FCC rules to permit us to provide Wi-Fi calling services while we deploy the new technology. We’re excited to roll out RTT and we look forward to working with the Commission and the disability community to make this technology available to everyone, everywhere as fast as possible.

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