Generic Access Network (GAN) extends mobile voice, data and multimedia (IP Multimedia Subsystem/Session Initiation Protocol (IMS/SIP)) applications over IP networks. Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) is the commercial name used by mobile carriers for external IP access into their core networks. The latest generation system is named Wi-Fi Calling by a number of handset manufacturers, including Apple and Samsung, a move that is being mirrored by carriers like T-Mobile US and Vodafone.
Essentially, GAN allows cell phone packets to be forwarded to a network access point over the internet, rather than over-the-air using GSM/GPRS, UMTS or similar. A separate device known as a "GAN Controller" (GANC) receives this data from the Internet and feeds it into the phone network as if it were coming from an antenna on a tower. Calls can be placed from or received to the handset as if it were connected over-the-air directly to the GANC's point of presence. The system is essentially invisible to the network as a whole, GAN is used to allow UMA-compatible mobile phones to use WiFi networks to connect calls, in place of conventional cell towers. This can be useful in locations with poor cell coverage where some other form of internet access is available, especially at the home or office. The system offers seamless handoff, so the user can move from cell to WiFi and back again with the same invisibility that the cell network offers when moving from tower to tower.
Since the GAN system works over the internet, a UMA-capable handset can connect to their service provider from any location with internet access. This is particularly useful for travellers, who can connect to their provider's GANC and make calls into their home service area from anywhere in the world. This is subject to the quality of the internet connection, however, and may not work well over limited bandwidth or long-latency connections. To improve quality of service in the home or office, some providers also supply a specially programmed wireless access point that prioritizes UMA packets.