Title Title
Can you hear me? How wifi-calling is connecting the disconnected  Can you hear me? How greater wifi access can empower the disconnected
Summary Summary
People in signal 'not spots' and remote areas have another way to seamlessly connect but many still without decent internet  People in signal 'not spots' and remote areas have another way to seamlessly connect, but many still lack decent internet
Highlights Highlights
  Solution to disrupted calls could be seamless wifi overlap , Most of UK connected, but quality variable , U.S. study reports that urban poverty and 'neighborhood' affect connectivity
Content Content
<strong>Wifi-calling has been rolled out across the United States and United Kingdom as a way to connect people in rural areas and those in urban "not spots." But many still don't know it exists and people in rural areas still struggle to get any internet connection at all.</strong>  <strong>Wifi-calling has been rolled out across the United States and United Kingdom as a way to connect people in rural areas and those in urban "not spots." But many don't know it exists, and people in rural areas still struggle to get any internet connection at all.</strong>
  The great divide between city life and rural living, supposedly obliterated by contemporary connectivity, is a myth that ignores the great disparity in effective networks.
<span style="font-weight: 400;">When Chris Walsh wants to make a phone call from his home in Leeds in England, he has three options: lean out of the living room window, go outside, or make a call on Whatsapp. But with parents in their 60s, the latter is not always entirely feasible, the 30-year-old business development manager says. The app is "not on their radar."</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">When Chris Walsh wants to use his cellphone to call from his home in Leeds in England, he has three options: lean out of the living room window, brave the weather outside, or make a call on WhatsApp. But his parents are in their sixties and not so comfortable with the latter, the 30-year-old business development manager says. The app is "not on their radar."</span>
"You want to have a proper chin-wag with them and you want to just sit and speak to them ... that can be pretty difficult when you don't have any phone signal," Walsh says during a phone interview with <em>WikiTribune.</em>  "You want to have a proper chin-wag with them  ... that can be pretty difficult when you don't have any phone signal," Walsh says during a (successful) phone interview with <em>WikiTribune.</em>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Walsh moved into his flat in Chapel Allerton in North Leeds in northern England last year. And while he says he loves it, he can’t get any phone signal from his bed or sofa. "I'll very often leave my house and then get a million text messages saying that you've missed calls from all these different people."</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Walsh moved into his flat in rural Chapel Allerton, North Leeds, in northern England, last year. He says he can’t get any phone signal from his bed or sofa. "I'll very often leave my house and then get a million text messages saying that you've missed calls from all these different people."</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Walsh is just one of the many people living in cities with signal <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42995210">“not spots,”</a> who face the same problems as people in some rural areas that lack the necessary infrastructure to make phone calls. A "not spot" is an area that has little or no mobile coverage by any operator and they can be anywhere, from skyscraper offices to old houses with thick walls.</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">He is just one of the many people living in modern cities with signal <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42995210">“not spots,”</a> [as opposed to hot-spots] facing the same problems as people in rural areas where broadband infrastructure is inadequate. A "not spot" is an area that has little or no mobile coverage by any operator; they can be anywhere, from skyscraper offices to old houses with thick walls.</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">There's something that may help Walsh dodge dozens of missed calls: wifi-calling.</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">There's something that could help Walsh avoid dozens of missed calls: wifi-calling.</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">As part of a global technological revolution expanding internet access and phone networks, making calls is no longer impossible for people in areas of the world which otherwise have little or no cellular coverage but have an internet connection.</span>  
  <span style="font-weight: 400;">As part of a global technological revolution, making calls is now possible for residents of areas with poor cellular coverage but an  internet connection. People living outside of cities, in remote or sparsely-populated areas, don’t enjoy the internet or phone connectivity privileges of city dwellers, so even wifi-calling might not be an option.</span>
[caption id="attachment_73164" align="aligncenter" width="2176"]<img class="size-full wp-image-73164" src="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/wikitribune-uploads-master/2018/06/01143407/Telecommunications_mast_Grange_Park_Wetherby_15th_April_2013.jpg" alt="A photo of a telecommunications mast in Grange Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire" width="2176" height="3872" /> A telecommunications mast in Grange Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Photo by: Mtaylor848 via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] [caption id="attachment_73164" align="aligncenter" width="2176"]<img class="size-full wp-image-73164" src="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/wikitribune-uploads-master/2018/06/01143407/Telecommunications_mast_Grange_Park_Wetherby_15th_April_2013.jpg" alt="A photo of a telecommunications mast in Grange Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire" width="2176" height="3872" /> A telecommunications mast in Grange Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Photo by: Mtaylor848 via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]
  <h2> Half the world still without internet</h2>
  While more than half the world population worldwide now lives in cities, <a href="http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html">3.4 billion people remain in rural areas</a>, according to United Nations research. In the UK, where<a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/householdcharacteristics/homeinternetandsocialmediausage/bulletins/internetaccesshouseholdsandindividuals/2017#household-internet-access-continues-to-rise"> 90 percent of households</a> have internet access, according to the Office of National Statistics, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rural-population-and-migration/rural-population-201415">17 percent</a> of the population lives in rural areas, such as villages, hamlets (smaller than a village), or sparse areas.
  The divide between connectivity in urban and rural areas in Britain has been called the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/19/the-guardian-view-on-broadband-britain-take-internet-infrastructure-away-from-bt">“internet apartheid</a>” (<em>The Guardian</em>).
  <p class="p1">Dr Lorna Philip, a senior lecturer and<span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 1.6rem;"> head of Geosciences at the </span>University of Aberdeen in Scotland says there is a "marked divide" between rural and urban areas when it comes to internet access. But, says Philip, whose work specializes in rural communities, it is the quality and speed of internet access that is the real difference, not the mere fact of its existence. She says 95 percent of the population has adequate internet access, but the "final few" is still struggling. "Despite massive sums of public money going in to improve infrastructure, this has not been set up to include everybody."</p>
  "If you can’t use the internet, you’re excluded from a lot of things you want to do."
  In the U.S., a 2015 <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/signs-of-digital-distress-mapping-broadband-availability/">study by the Brookings Institution</a> found that one in four residents in rural areas had no broadband service. But the U.S. problem seems to be part rural isolation and part urban poverty: as researcher Adie Tomer told <a href="https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/09/broadband-is-the-most-inaccessible-to-those-who-need-it-most/539880/">citylab.com</a>, "You can see a cycle of economic hurdles that certain folks need to overcome." The study found that nearly a quarter of Americans lived in low-subscription neighborhoods where over half of the households have no broadband connection.
  In developing countries, the number of remote citizens can be high, with India and China unsurprisingly hosting the largest rural populations (<a href="http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html">UN</a>). Meanwhile, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage">nearly half of the world's population is without internet access</a> (Wikipedia).
  <h2>Better times are coming</h2>
  In Britain, better connectivity is on its way for all, courtesy of a universal service obligation (USO) that aims to give everyone a decent broadband connection.
  The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), that is introducing the USO, told <em>WikiTribune </em>in an email that it will "give everyone the legal right to broadband speeds of high speed broadband of at least 10 Mbps by 2020."
  <p class="p1"><span class="s1">The average broadband download speed across the UK was 16.5 Mbps in 2017, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/aug/08/average-uk-broadband-speed-europe-germany-spain-singapore"><span class="s2">a report from consumer and telecoms analyst</span></a> <a href="http://Cable.co.uk"><span class="s2">Cable.co.uk</span></a> found. This is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Internet_connection_speeds"><span class="s2">less than the average across Europe</span></a> (Wikipedia).</span></p>
In Britain, better connectivity is on its way for all, courtesy of a universal service obligation (USO) that aims to give everyone a decent broadband connection. The 2017 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Economy_Act_2017">Digital Economy Act</a> is also paving the way for any household or business to request a minimum speed. The government department for digital says it aims to <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/696490/USO_consultation_government_response_28_March_FINAL.pdf">"ensure that no-one is left behind."</a>  The 2017 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Economy_Act_2017">Digital Economy Act</a> is also paving the way for any household or business to request a minimum speed. The department says it aims to <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/696490/USO_consultation_government_response_28_March_FINAL.pdf">"ensure that no-one is left behind."</a>
  A spokesperson from the DCMS told<em>WikiTribune </em>via email:
  <blockquote>"We have reached more than 4.5 million extra homes and businesses who would otherwise have been left behind — but we know more needs to be done. We are reaching thousands more homes and businesses across the UK every single week, and we expect the programme will take superfast speeds to around another 2 per cent of the UK by 2020.
  "We have implemented major changes to planning laws and made it cheaper and easier for industry to roll out masts, but the mobile companies now need to act fast on these reforms and deliver better coverage across the UK, particularly in rural areas."</blockquote>
  Increasing customer awareness about wifi-calling is on the DCMS to-do list. "This is something that we will be discussing with network operators in our regular meetings," a spokesperson said in the email.
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Wifi-calling is just one solution. It has been rolled out by network providers and smartphone companies in the United Kingdom, <a href="http://www.timesnownews.com/technology-science/article/poor-network-soon-make-calls-on-home-or-office-wifi-to-landline-mobiles/223378">India</a>, and in the United States. </span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Wifi-calling is just one solution to the problem of reliable connections. It has been rolled out by network providers and smartphone companies in the United Kingdom, <a href="http://www.timesnownews.com/technology-science/article/poor-network-soon-make-calls-on-home-or-office-wifi-to-landline-mobiles/223378">India</a>, and in the United States. </span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Don’t be mistaken: it's is different from making a "voice over Internet Protocol" (VOIP) call on an internet-based app like Skype or Whatsapp. </span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Don’t be mistaken: it's different from making a "voice over Internet Protocol" (VOIP) call on an internet-based app like Skype or Whatsapp. </span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Wifi-calling </span><a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-wifi-calling/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">set up directly in the phone's dialler</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, so no alternative app or service is needed to make a call (<em>CNET</em>). The phone carrier automatically transfers the phone call to a wifi connection whenever the phone drops in service, even when in the middle of a call.</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Wifi-calling is </span><a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/what-you-need-to-know-about-wifi-calling/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">set up directly in the phone's dialler</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, so no alternative app or service is needed to make a call (<em>CNET</em>). The phone carrier automatically transfers the phone call to a wifi connection whenever the phone drops in service, even when in the middle of a call.</span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">It should happen without the user even noticing. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">It should happen without the user even noticing. </span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">"You make a call in your home and you're on wifi-calling. You leave home, you walk out, your wifi drops, but you've got 4G coverage outside. The call will seamlessly hand over to 4G and your call will carry on," explains Howard Jones, head of communications at EE, a British mobile network operator that provides the service. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">"You make a call in your home and you're on wifi-calling. You leave home, you walk out, your wifi drops, but you've got 4G coverage outside. The call will seamlessly hand over to 4G and your call will carry on," explains Howard Jones, head of communications at EE, a British mobile network operator that provides the service. </span>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">"That's pretty cool."</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">"That's pretty cool."</span>
<h2>Wifi-calling obscure but not new</h2>  <h2>Wifi-calling in its infancy, many unaware</h2>
<span style="font-weight: 400;">But the idea is not new: phone network company T-Mobile started working on the technology in the UK in 2014, and it is widely available across the United States, says Mathew Evans, a research fellow at the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science at the University of South Wales.</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Phone network company T-Mobile started working on the technology in the UK in 2014, and it is widely available across the United States, says Mathew Evans, a research fellow at the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science at the University of South Wales.</span>
Still, many people are unaware of wifi-calling and its benefits.<span style="font-weight: 400;">“I don’t think most people actually realise it’s a thing or something they have access to," says Evans.</span> Still, many people are unaware of wifi-calling and its benefits.<span style="font-weight: 400;">“I don’t think most people actually realise it’s a thing or something they have access to," says Evans.</span>
Chris Walsh, in Leeds, hadn't heard of the technology before <em>WikiTribune </em>spoke to him. Chris Walsh, in Leeds, hadn't heard of the technology before <em>WikiTribune </em>spoke to him.
It's much more common and well-known in the United States though, says Evans. "Wifi-calling has been almost a standard in America longer than it has in the UK. It's more common to find it out there than not."  It's much more common and well-known in the U.S., says Evans. "Wifi-calling has been almost a standard in America longer than it has in the UK. It's more common to find it out there than not."
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite it not quite yet catching on in Britain, Evans says wifi-calling has “lots of benefits.” These include giving people in rural areas greater coverage, and providing seamless connectivity when overseas. </span><b></b> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite it not quite yet catching on in Britain, Evans says wifi-calling has “lots of benefits.” These include giving people in rural areas greater coverage, and providing seamless connectivity when overseas. </span><b></b>
"What's kind of neat is if you've got a mobile phone and say you were American with wifi calling, if you come over to the UK to visit and you have wifi access, you still use your phone like you were in America...For people in the UK, if we're going abroad and we have wifi connection, we're still using our phone like we're in the UK."  "What's kind of neat is if you've got a mobile phone and say you were American with wifi calling, if you come over to the UK to visit and you have wifi access, you still use your phone like you were in America ... For people in the UK, if we're going abroad and we have wifi connection, we're still using our phone like we're in the UK."
  <h2>Risky business</h2>
But there are also risks associated with wifi-calling. But there are also risks associated with wifi-calling.
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Callers using public wifi networks may be at risk of having personal information stolen or calls intercepted. As discovered by <a href="https://www2.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2013/EECS-2013-18.pdf">students at University of California, Berkeley in 2013</a>, T-Mobile’s wifi-calling service didn’t validate the security certificate in its server, creating the opportunity for an attack that tricks the server into thinking its the right service.</span>  <span style="font-weight: 400;">Callers using public wifi networks may be at risk of having personal information stolen or calls intercepted. As discovered by <a href="https://www2.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2013/EECS-2013-18.pdf">students at University of California, Berkeley in 2013</a>, T-Mobile’s wifi-calling service didn’t validate the security certificate in its server, creating the opportunity for an attack that tricks the server into thinking it has the right service.</span>
Despite this attack, the issue has since been fixed and T-Mobile is the "most reliable" provider to use wifi-calling with, says Evans. "Because they've been running it the longest."  Despite this attack, the issue has since been fixed and T-Mobile is the "most reliable" provider to use wifi-calling with, says Evans, "because they've been running it the longest."
<p class="p1">But Harman Singh, the co-founder of Defendza, a cyber security consultancy, says wifi-calling is "prone to data theft," noting the T-Mobile breach. However, if encrypted properly, he says hacks would be more difficult.</p> <p class="p1">But Harman Singh, the co-founder of Defendza, a cyber security consultancy, says wifi-calling is "prone to data theft," noting the T-Mobile breach. However, if encrypted properly, he says hacks would be more difficult.</p>
<p class="p1">"Where insecure wifi networks are used, wifi call data can be intercepted and stolen, therefore making it susceptible to attackers. It may be difficult for attackers to decrypt if mobile carrier uses encryption before sending data over wifi networks," says Singh. He adds that traditional phone calls have had less known attacks.</p>  <p class="p1">"Where insecure wifi networks are used, wifi call data can be intercepted and stolen, therefore making it susceptible to attackers. It may be difficult for attackers to decrypt if a mobile carrier uses encryption before sending data over wifi networks," says Singh. He adds that traditional phone calls have had fewer known attacks.</p>
<h2>Internet access still an issue in rural parts</h2>  
People living outside of cities in remote or sparse areas don’t enjoy the internet or phone connectivity privileges that those who live in the city do, meaning even wifi-calling may not be an option.  
The divide between connectivity in urban and rural areas in Britain has even been called the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/19/the-guardian-view-on-broadband-britain-take-internet-infrastructure-away-from-bt">“internet apartheid</a>” (<em>The Guardian</em>).  
<p class="p1">Dr Lorna Philip, a senior lecturer and<span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 1.6rem;"> head of Geosciences at the </span>University of Aberdeen in Scotland says there is a "marked divide" between rural and urban areas when it comes to internet access. But, says Philip, whose work specializes in rural communities, increasingly divided is not the fact of having internet access but the quality and speed of it.</p>  
She says 95 percent of the population has adequate internet access, but the "final few" is still struggling. "Despite massive sums of public money going in to improve infrastructure, this has not been set up to include everybody."  
"[But] if you can’t use the internet, you’re excluded from a lot of things you want to do."  
<em>WikiTribune </em>is awaiting comment from the Department for Digital, Culture and Sport, about connectivity in rural areas.  
Much of the world <a href="http://balquhidder.net/setting-up-the-house-costs-and-savings/">takes total connectivity for granted</a>, says the Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB) group, which successfully set up its own village broadband in March 2018 after <a href="https://www.scotsman.com/future-scotland/tech/rural-scottish-village-broadband-network-among-fastest-in-uk-1-4712059">years trailing behind the rest of the country’s internet connectivity</a> (<em>The Scotsman</em>).  
[caption id="attachment_73120" align="aligncenter" width="3024"]<img class="size-full wp-image-73120" src="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/wikitribune-uploads-master/2018/06/01113939/AB-Gairns-road-sign.jpg" alt="A Balquhidder Community Broadband sign pictured in front of the Scottish highlands. " width="3024" height="4032" /> A Balquhidder Community Broadband sign pictured in front of the Scottish highlands. Photo by: Balquhidder Community Broadband[/caption]  
The community interest company is just one example of people in remote parts of the world taking matters into their own hands.  
<span style="font-weight: 400;">Until March 2018, residents and businesses in Balquhidder, </span>a tucked-away village in the Scottish highlands surrounded by mountains, 50 miles north of major city Glasgow, struggled to do anything on the internet.  
"Where I was sitting before with my BT connection, on a good day I would get about 1.8 Mb, other days I would get maybe, something like 0.01 meg. It fluctuated," says David Johnston, co-founder of BCB.  
Now, 14 households in Balquhidder include Johnston's enjoy fiber-optic broadband with speeds of up to 800 Mb, one of the highest speeds fiber broadband can provide.  
"It makes a huge difference," says Johnston. "Things just happen now ... It's not a matter any more of when the computer tells you there's an update and you say, 'I'll maybe set it off when I go to bed and it might be done in the morning'...I don't need to worry about that any more, we just do it and get on with what I was doing."  
The internet in his home is now so speedy that Johnston can watch David Attenborough-presented wildlife documentary series <em>Blue Planet </em>in high definition (HD).  
"It was funny, the extra quality of going from HD to Ultra HD on the telly with the BBC iPlayer was amazing. It just blew you away just looking at the quality of the picture, it was just stunning."  
Along with his colleague Richard Harris and a group of volunteers, Johnston has been working since 2007 to get broadband to Balquhidder. They're planning to get fiber-optic into every one of the village's 200 homes.  
But the volunteer-led initiative is a "slow process," says Johnston. "It's incremental, a wee bit at a time."  
[caption id="attachment_73121" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]<img class="wp-image-73121 size-large" src="https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/wikitribune-uploads-master/2018/06/01113944/IMG_20171125_135330-1024x576.jpg" alt="" width="1024" height="576" /> One of Balquhidder Community Broadband's diggers, making way for the Scottlish highland village's fiber optic broadband. Photo by: Balquhidder Community Broadband[/caption]  
&nbsp;  
<h2>Half the world still without internet</h2>  
While more than half of the population worldwide now lives in cities, <a href="http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html">3.4 billion people live in rural areas</a>, according to United Nations research. In the UK, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rural-population-and-migration/rural-population-201415">17 percent</a> of the population lives in rural areas, such as villages, hamlets (a small settlement smaller than a village), or sparse areas.  
In developing countries, the number of remote citizens is usually higher, with India and China hosting the largest rural populations (<a href="http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html">UN</a>).  
Meanwhile, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage">nearly half of the world's population is without internet access</a> (Wikipedia).  
<a href="https://x.company/loon/">Project Loon</a> is one solution to the lack of internet and cellular connectivity in developing countries. The initiative is working to bring internet coverage to rural and remote areas across the globe using balloons. Project Loon is<a href="http://www.x.company/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> part of X,</a> an innovation lab within Alphabet, Google's parent company.  
"Project Loon is a system of balloons, carried by winds in the stratosphere, designed to beam Internet access to rural, remote and underserved areas down on earth below at speeds similar to today’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LTE_(telecommunication)">LTE</a> networks... Over the last year, Project Loon has provided emergency connectivity to more than 300K people," they said in background information sent in an email to <em>WikiTribune.</em>  
Following Hurricane Maria, Project Loon worked <a href="https://blog.x.company/turning-on-project-loon-in-puerto-rico-f3aa41ad2d7f" target="_blank" rel="noopener">worked with AT&amp;T and T-Mobile</a> to bring connectivity to more than 250K people, and after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016%E2%80%9317_South_America_floods" target="_blank" rel="noopener">flooding in Peru</a> worked with Telefonica to connect people in flood-affected zones, the spokesperson added.  
"Through our work in Puerto Rico and after the floods in Peru last year, we've learned a lot about restoring connectivity post-disaster, and look forward to working closely with the industry and governments to move our efforts from response to preparedness."  
As for Chris Walsh, who has to lean out of his window to make phone calls despite living near the center of a city, he's unfazed about increasing his connectivity.  As for Chris Walsh, leaning out of his city-center window to make phone calls, neither interception nor increasing his connectivity is a big worry.
He says wifi-calling sounds like a "very good idea" but he says he has little incentive to upgrade his phone to one that can do wifi-calling.  He says wifi-calling sounds like a "very good idea" but has little incentive to upgrade his phone to one that can do wifi-calling.
"I'm a bit of a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite">Luddite</a> with phones." "I'm a bit of a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite">Luddite</a> with phones."
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