Cell signal over wifi

Pudge Gumley

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 28, 2006
83
Chicago
I am not the most sophisticated guy when it comes to tech stuff, and would appreciate some education about why I am having such trouble using my cell phone as, you know, a PHONE. [SIZE=13.63636302948px]I really like the savings that came from ditching the landline, but the frustrations have been mounting of late.  s[/SIZE]
 
Background:  My wife and I both rely on our cell phones to stay in contact (her at work, me at home), but our new home and her workplace are an absolute dead zone for cell signal. Next door in either direction we get 4 bars, and  the whole block is all brick 2 flat buildings, it's not like we are in a steel/concrete highrise or urban canyon, so who knows what is wrong with our locale.  Were on Sprint when we moved in, but even with a Sprint-provided Rave signal booster we had very poor signal.  I read that TMobile was the only major carrier that allowed using wifi networks to connect to their cellular network, and with their no-contract promos we switched last year. I sprung for the new HTC One, and she got a basic Nokia Windows smartphone.  This did not actually improve our service, causing much heartache.  TM has had us swap out sim cards multiple times, also gave us free use of a cell-amplifier, and I exchanged my phone in the hopes that it was a simple antenna issue.  No improvement.  My wife has just as many problems at work, and their network connection is pretty rock solid, so the problem is not just limited to our house.
 
What is mystifying is that our phones have no problem with internet/streaming video/music but can't complete a 5 minute call without dropping.   One of the TM techs said that even when phones are using LTE for data, phone traffic is still on 2G and that there are still tremendous challenges for devices and networks to navigate the handoff of phone signal via internet.  Even the sound quality is noticeably worse on calls than other media on the phones. 
 
TLDR version:  Requesting any guidance on choice of carrier, phone and modem/router with regards to call quality and signal reliability.  Is trying to use wifi for cell signal a fool's errand? Does the choice of phone matter? Is TMobile just bad?
 
Misc hardware details,  I curently have a fairly old modem (Moto 5100 series) but have ordered the recommended modem (Moto 6141) for delivery, and currently have a Linksys WRT150N router.
 

TomTerrific

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
1,497
Wayland, MA
Note that the two carriers offering some capability in this arena, T-mobile and Sprint, have elaborate disclaimers to the effect that "most devices won't transition between WiFi and the cellular network", or something like that.
 
The issue appears to be the fact that normal voice transmission on cell networks is not packetized in the way that WiFi networks are used to handling. This leaves open the possibility of conflict between the cell network and WiFi if you have even some slight cell connectivity. It won't be satisfactorily resolved until VoLTE comes along, at which point things will be properly packetized.
 
Here's something to try. Go into whatever the equivalent of "airplane mode" is for an Android device, and then individually turn WiFi back on. This should disable your cellular network radio on your device (I say "should", because I've only tried this on an iPhone). Then try making a phone call and see what happens. Not guaranteeing this will work, but it's worth a try.