Soon mobile phone subscribers will be able to make zero cost calls over Wi-Fi networks from their nearest public Wi-Fi hotspot. The Department of Telecommunications has hastened the process of development of these Wi-Fi hotspots after the recommendations came into scrutiny regarding VoWiFi, and Vodafone India seems to be keen on the technology. This would help subscribers connect with whomever they want on call, even in areas where the connectivity is poor. It is noteworthy that Vodafone India, which is soon going to merge its operations in India with Idea Cellular has already such technology in place in other countries like UK and Australia. The company is going to follow suit in India. The Voice over Wi-Fi technology is going to route the calls over the internet to the receiver even in the absence of cellular signal.
While Vodafone already has an existing model which it is likely to replicate in the country, Reliance Jio Infocomm has already finished testing the Voice over Wi-Fi services. On the other hand, Bharti Airtel is lagging a bit, as the largest telco of the country is yet to start testing the tech ahead of the launch. The industry experts are saying that the VoWiFi will be able to work effortlessly on the phone which supports VoLTE technology.
The fast moves on this new venture from telco have surfaced after the DoT made changes to the license rules which now allow the telcos to assign the same mobile number for cellular as well as internet telephony services. This new move will not only prove of utility for the user, but it will also help telcos free up airwaves for meeting surging higher data demand.
A person aware of the matter informed ET as he said “Vodafone, which already offers the Wi-Fi calling facility to customers in the UK and Australia, is likely to replicate the services in India initially to postpaid customers with compatible 4G VoLTE phones.” He further added that the service “are likely to be offered at no additional cost, in that, all such calls will use up a postpaid customer’s minutes allowance on his/her existing plan.”
The person also highlighted that Vodafone India is the most capable of launching the services at short notices given its current infrastructure. The telco can roll out its services in 13 circles, where it has expanded its VoLTE operations.
The industry experts have also made it clear that charging additionally for these services would not be a viable business model for the telcos since already under so much competition, the telecom industry has been noticing free unlimited voice calling plans. In such a scenario, charging separately for VoWi-Fi services would be absurd.
An Idea Cellular executive also made a statement saying that the Kumar Mangalam Birla led telco is readily in the position of commencing operations for Wi-Fi calling services in 20 circles. He said, “The WiFi calling option will have a beneficial impact on network congestion, reduce call drops and expand the reach of the Idea network.”
When posed with questions regarding the same issue on press time, Vodafone India, Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio did not make any comments. However, despite the existing infrastructure of both the companies and the established fact that Vodafone India is all set to launch its Wi-Fi calling services, Idea Cellular along with Vodafone India are going to stall their plans for rolling out the service until their merger is finalised.
Executives specialising in the industry said that this new Wi-Fi calling feature would help the subscribers in rural locations, inside old buildings with thick walls, in underground garages or inside metro stations, where mobile signals are usually weak and interfere with the call quality and connection.
The newly amended rules by the DoT now also allow the telcos to use each other’s data networks when consumers make voice calls over WiFi. The new license rules go as far as granting the permission to third parties to facilitate voice over Wi-Fi services with a valid license. However, it goes without saying that these services will be subject to lawful interception and monitoring requirements just like it is the case with normal calls.
Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.