In a move that will enable them to take on over-the-top (OTT) players, which have been eating into their revenues, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio) are in advanced stages of testing Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) services.
VoWiFi is hailed across the world as the technology that keeps users connected even without a mobile signal. Commonly referred as WiFi calling, VoWiFi eliminates mobile blackspots for users by making it possible to make and receive calls over WiFi or wireless internet connections.
Currently, this type of service is being offered by OTT players such as WhatsApp.
It also doesn’t require mobile networks nor SIM cards to facilitate the calls. Further, the receiver doesn’t need to have WiFi calling facilities. Calls can be accessed on a Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE, the technology for 4G services) handset.
Another benefit is that users can seamlessly move from VoLTE to VoWiFi without the call getting disconnected. Currently, if a user switches from mobile voice calling to Wi-Fi network, the call gets disrupted.
Better rural connectivity
Bharti Airtel, the country’s leading operator by subscribers, is testing the services across its leading circles such as Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The benefit of the service is that it will provide connectivity to customers in rural and far-flung areas where it is difficult to set up mobile infrastructure, a source close to the development said. RJio, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), is testing the services across Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Mumbai with plans to extend to a couple of more circles. If successful, the company intends to launch the services accessible over its Jiophones, mostly as an app, a different source said.
“The testing is in advanced stages and launch of the services will depend on the feasibility tests, which are being conducted for accessibility, voice clarity and robustness of the service,” the second source added.
The UK-headquartered Vodafone Group has already launched the services in certain countries, while its India plans were still unclear. With success abroad, it can launch the services anytime in India.
Telecom companies have always complained of OTT players — such as Skype, WhatsApp, Hike, Facebook and Google — eating into their voice revenues, and had sought them to be brought under a licensing regime, since they offer similar services such as voice calling and messaging.
In 2018, the Department of Telecommunications had approved voice calls over a Wi-Fi network to improve connectivity, especially in rural areas.―The Hindu Business Line