Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Enabling Wi-Fi calling on an unlocked Blackberry

Further to my last post on setting up a SIP, my next project was to get Wi-Fi calling enabled on my old AT&T Blackberry for. Wi-Fi calling, or Generic Access Network (GAN), or its commercial name Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) is a technology by which mobile phones can setup a secure network to the carrier’s wireless gateway using a wireless LAN. The technology allows the phones to seamlessly switch between the local LAN to the carrier network as the user moves. Beyond that, I see two main advantages of using UMA:

a. Wi-Fi calling allows carriers with bad coverage in certain areas to allow their customers to make calls over their home Wi-Fi network which leads to better reception.

b. Calls made over Wi-Fi usually do not count towards the customer’s minutes.

Not all carriers provide UMA calling (i.e. AT&T in the US) and they need additional infrastructure on their end to support this. Rogers Wireless in Canada provides Wi-Fi calling on many Blackberry models and has a tiered pricing for long distance calling, early evening etc. on UMA.

Now, the main issue that I faced was getting the AT&T 9700 Blackberry on Rogers. I had to first get the phone unlocked and then add Wi-Fi calling on the phone from Rogers. The second step, however, did not work as I was bringing in a non-network phone. To my surprise, the Rogers tech support person was quite helpful and gave me a few hints to get the phone working which I will outline below. I also pieced together a lot from the forums on the net which I’m linking to.

The first step is to download and install the Blackberry OS for your carrier. In order for the OS to be installed, the vendor.xml file has to be removed; otherwise the installer will not recognize your phone. Once the file is deleted, run Loader.exe from the same directory to update your Blackberry OS.

The second step is to get the carrier certificate installed on the Blackberry. This is required for the device to securely authenticate with the carrier. I found the Rogers certificate here. Google to find yours.

I’m not sure if this next step is required, but it’s a good idea to get the APN (TCP/IP) settings correct as you’ll need it to access the Internet from your phone. This can be changed under Device > Advanced System Settings on your Blackberry. You can find the APN settings for Rogers here.

The next few steps will actually setup GAN on your Blackberry. This is a bit tricky so be sure of this or you can possible brick the Blackberry and void your warranty. The idea is to unlock the Engineering Screens or “eScreens” to allow setting up UMA. To do so, press Alt+Shift+H or Alt+EACE on your Blackberry. If your Blackberry is still branded to a carrier, it will only show the “Help Me!” screen. Staying on this screen, go to bbtricks.com to enter the details as shown and get the eScreens unlock code. If this website is not working (RIM lawsuit in 3 … 2 … 1 …), Google is your friend.

Once the eScreens is unlocked, the next step is to setup GAN. Staying on the eScreens, go to Mobile Network Engineering Screens > Utilities > Session Manager > > UMA Options > > New and enter your carrier’s UMA details.

Once that’s done, the last step is to go to eScreens > Multi-WAF Engineering Screens > Radio Control Engineering Screen > 3GPP and set 3GPP_GERAN -> Disabled, 3GPP_UTRAN -> Disabled, 3GPP_GAN -> Enabled and GAN Preference -> GAN. Now click “Set RAT Configuration” and voila! – UMA should be running.

Happy Wi-Fi calling!

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