In August, I told you that even though T-Mobile USA launched its BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone without Wi-Fi calling functionality, the company planned to release a BlackBerry software update to enable the feature in November.
Today, I have a few more details on T-Mobile’s Bold 9900 Wi-Fi calling software update, including the obvious news that the wireless carrier won’t likely meet its November software release target date; it’s not available yet, and we’re less than three days away from December.
The latest leaked software for the Bold 9900, OS version 18.104.22.168, reportedly enables the T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling feature—as well as new mobile hotspot tethering functionality—so it’s possible that this software will be the version T-Mobile releases in the coming days or weeks.
I asked T-Mobile for an update on when exactly we can expect the software update to become available, and though the company wouldn’t name a specific date, I did get the following new details on the Bold 9900’s Wi-Fi calling features, from T-Mobile PR representative Matthew Ashworth:
"T-Mobile implements Wi-Fi on its devices in different ways, giving us the ability to offer Wi-Fi on a wider range of devices. As technology progresses, we may change the way we deliver Wi-Fi calling, but we are fully committed to this capability for our business and government customers. Regardless of the technology behind the Wi-Fi connection, Wi-Fi calling helps our business and government customers save money, enhance coverage, and increase productivity"
- "The first is embedded in the device, via a chip. (UMA)"
- "The second is a software application integrated into the operating system. (This is the way we’ll enable Wi-Fi Calling on the BlackBerry Bold 9900.) "
"Both implementations work with our Wi-Fi Calling for Business and Wi-Fi Calling for Government solutions. For the customer, the implementations are virtually the same with many of the features and functionality identical. The primary differences are the following:"
- "For the OEM, the software implementation provides more flexibility, easier in-the-field upgrades and cost effectiveness."
- "For the customer, the software implementation saves battery life as it turns off the cellular radio when on a Wi-Fi connection. When it does this, however, the device does not “seamlessly” hand off between cellular and Wi-Fi."
In other words, the new Bold 9900 will not employ hardware-based UMA for Wi-Fi calling, like the Bold 9700/9780 and other earlier Wi-Fi-calling-enabled BlackBerrys. Instead, it will use a Wi-Fi calling application, and as a result, the device will not be able to transfer calls initiated on a Wi-Fi network over to the cellular network, or vice-versa, like predecessor BlackBerry devices. This probably won’t be too much of an issue for most users, but heavy Wi-Fi calling users could certainly miss UMA and the network-to-network call handovers it enables.
I will update this post accordingly when I hear back from T-Mobile with a new expected release date for the Bold 9900 Wi-Fi calling software update.