Mobile operator 3 UK has announced a new app called Three inTouch that allows customers to talk and text over a Wi-Fi connection. The app will be available beginning in early August and will be offered free to all contract, SIM and pay-as-you-go customers. Any minutes or texts used are charged against a customer’s existing monthly allowance or prepaid credit. The Wi-Fi usage is not charged against the customer’s data allowance.
This is an interesting service option. The calls and texts and not carried over IP; rather, a Wi-Fi signal conveys the calls and texts to 3 UK’s cellular network, which then completes the connection. Unlike with a VoIP or other OTT service, the charges are made to the user’s existing voice and text allowances. So it appears that the purpose of Three inTouch is not to compete with OTT providers but to ensure connectivity for 3 UK customers, especially if they are in a place where cellular coverage is poor or nonexistent, as long as a Wi-Fi connection is available.
According to the operator, once the app is installed, the transition from standard service to Wi-Fi-assisted service is intended to be seamless.
Also in the U.K., operator EE has announced trials of a Wi-Fi voice service that is intended to create a “zero-defect” calling experience in the country’s busiest regions and get rid of “whitespots,” or no-service areas. In the U.S., T-Mobile currently has a similar service in which calls can be placed over a Wi-Fi connection and are charged based on monthly plan minutes.
“Using Wi-Fi to fill in low- or no-coverage “whitespots” makes sense in a country like the U.K., where free public Wi-Fi is available in many areas. In other markets, it is an open question whether operators would do better to invest in expanding and strengthening their cellular networks or in promoting the proliferation of Wi-Fi. In truth, while apps such as Three inTouch can offer some advantage to users, they are, in the long run, no substitute for reliable, gap-free mobile networks. “
The Tarifica Alert
The above item appeared in a recent issue of The Tarifica Alert, a weekly resource that analyzes noteworthy developments in the telecoms industry from around the world. To access all of the latest articles and issues: http://www.tarifica.com/TarificaAlert.aspx