A new report stated recently that several mobile carriers have been spotted allowing the practice of completing mobile calls with Wi-Fi.
In the U.K., Network World (News - Alert) reports, mobile service provider EE is now providing its customers with Wi-Fi calling capability that works directly from their phones' native dialers. This means that they will not need an app to complete the process. In the U.S., T-Mobile (News - Alert) allows users to pick their options regarding Wi-Fi, so they can choose whether or not they want to use the Internet to make calls if it is available.
Although EE's service is completely seamless and will actively choose to use the Internet while T-Mobile provides users with an explicit choice, their actions are definitely part of the same trend. These are not the only telecoms participating in the practice, and they all are assisting their customers in the process of getting away from using their cell towers to complete voice calls.
That seems counterintuitive because many telecoms make money by charging users for the minutes they absorb; leading them away would seem to help customers avoid using up their minutes. Right?
Well, the trend toward using data instead of voice may be seen in a number of ways. First of all, mobile carriers are often pressured to build towers in remote locations to provide service everywhere. Many areas of the globe still have no mobile towers near them. So, if people who live in those areas have broadband, they can rely on VoIP calling through home phones, but if they do not have that they are likely stuck with traditional copper line phone service. Telecoms do not build there because it is initially too expensive, and they will not reclaim their investment with the few people who might purchase mobile service who would then have access to mobile towers.
As such, critics may say that telecoms are passing the torch to broadband providers. Telecoms want people with access to broadband to still be able to use their mobile services, so they allow them to use Wi-Fi because they know they do not have mobile towers in their locations. This, obviously, places the burden of connectivity on broadband providers and takes some of the weight off the telecoms.
Mobile Virtual Network Operators are taking advantage of this situation by purchasing capacity from major telecoms. They purchase minutes or packages from the carriers and then resell those minutes to people under a different brand. Network World points to Stratch Wireless and Republic Wireless as two of the most notable MVNOs that sell "free" network calling to their customers. In reality, they are simply relying on Wi-Fi to reduce the load on mobile towers. It is only free because it does not reduce users' mobile calling minutes.
In any case, the trend is clear, and the reliance on Wi-Fi is making many customers happy because it does help them save mobile minutes and instead use Internet connections that they probably already have in their homes. It is a win for everyone -- except maybe the broadband providers.