Optus has launched native Voice over Wi-Fi – a.k.a. Wi-Fi calling – which allows customers to easily make and receive calls, SMS and MMS where there is limited mobile coverage but an accessible Wi-Fi service, such as home or public Wi-Fi.
Optus already offers Wi-Fi Talk, an app-based solution that customers download to their device to make and receive calls and SMS over Wi-Fi. The difference with Wi-Fi calling is that it’s supported by technology native to compatible mobile devices, which means no app is required – callers can use the same native dialer they use to make regular phone calls.
Another difference is that the call set-up takes place via the VoLTE service on the Optus network IMS. This also enables Wi-Fi Calling to hand-off mobile users seamlessly from Wi-Fi access points to the LTE network, so long as the handset supports VoLTE.
For the moment, the list of such handsets is a short one – according to Optus, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are the only smartphones in Australia that support VoLTE and therefore Wi-Fi Calling.
But Dennis Wong, acting managing director of Optus Networks, said Optus will “continue to add other devices and expand the availability of WiFi Calling to more customers.”
A number of operators around the Asia-Pacific have been launching Wi-Fi calling services in the past year, although not as a new revenue stream so much as a QoS/QoE play.
Wi-fi calling is difficult to monetoze because from a customer point of view, there’s no real difference in how a normal voice call works. They use the same dialer as before, and if they wander out of range of the AP and the signal is picked up by the LTE network, the call will go on uninterrupted.
That’s why, according to Juniper Research, operators who are competing more on quality of service these days are investing in Wi-Fi calling primarily to improve the indoor coverage of their 4G networks. And with IMS/VoLTE already in place, it allows them to add value for relatively little investment.