Wireless companies look to beat cable to the Wi-Fi calling punch

While cable companies have worked feverishly over the last two years to build out their Wi-Fi networks, wireless companies have been pretty busy doing the same thing.

In fact, while Wi-Fi was once considered a threat to wireless operators, it is now part of many of their networks. AT&T (NYSE: T) added thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots when it acquired Wayport back in 2008. Sprint (NYSE: S) considers Wi-Fi a complementary "fourth layer" of its network. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) put Wi-Fi front and center with its Project Fi, which, while it doesn't bill itself as a "Wi-Fi First" offering, it does rely heavily on Wi-Fi for calls and data.

Experts say it's just the beginning. The remainder of 2015 and beyond will see even more inroads in Wi-Fi -- namely in Wi-Fi calling -- as the processes mature and handovers improve.

While it might sound counter-intuitive, operators in general are interested in offering Wi-Fi calling because it's cheaper for their customers, especially when you consider the cost of international roaming. It helps carriers provide better coverage, and they don't have to spend thousands of dollars on new base stations. Plus, it's a harbinger of 5G, where all the connections will be treated as part of one big network.

In its latest special report, FierceWirelessTech looks at the current challenges and opportunities in the Wi-Fi calling market. You can read it here.