Start Nasty phone chat lines

Nasty phone chat lines

Once calls on Verizon and AT&T are made over Vo LTE, there's little stopping them from being re-routed over Wi-Fi as well, at the mere flip of a switch.

Suddenly Bill Nye's disembodied head is floating across your screen, with 1s and 0s streaming in and out of his ears. Instead your carrier confronts some laws of physics and gets those 1s and 0s from the little brick in your hand to a cellular tower that's miles away, which then sends the call over a mess of wires, pipes, and lines that dates back to Alexander Graham Bell himself.

"Did you know," shouts Bill Nye (I don't know why he's shouting, but he is), "that when you make a cellular phone call your voice is transmitted as digital data, just like how a CD or DVD stores information? It's all very impressive, but who are they trying to impress?

Instead of routing your voice call directly through the internet, a femtocell device pretends to be a real cell tower, which captures your phone calls and then... Cost is a bit of a crapshoot: if you don't wrangle a freebie from a kind customer service rep, some of the carriers will actually charge you for the device — which can be as much as $350.

As odd as these Wi-Fi-avoidance contortions might sound right now in the early days of 2012, they're going to get really silly as Verizon and AT&T implement "Vo LTE" (Voice over LTE, pronounced "voltie") later this year — in fact, Verizon allegedly has a couple trial Vo LTE markets up and running.

While connecting a call over UMA can have its own problems (like latency, or Wi-Fi interference), there aren't any jumps or transfers the call has to make — it's just a straight data transfer between the phone and T-Mobile's data center.

That means that nothing in that legacy tangle of phone system can get in the way of functionality or quality of service that T-Mobile wants to provide, and, of course, it means that the best pipe wins.

With Vo LTE there's no difference between "internet data" and "voice" anymore; it's all IP.