news SingTel subsidiary Optus today revealed it had launched a smartphone app dubbed “Wi-Fi Talk” that would allow customers to make and receive calls and SMS over a Wi-Fi network, instead of through the company’s mobile network.
In a statement, the company said WiFi Talk was a free app available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. It is available to Optus prepaid and postpaid customers with iPhone and Android handsets with iOS version 6 and Android version 4.0 and above.
With WiFi Talk, customers can text or call any mobile phone number, or call any landline, in Australia or overseas. Calls and texts are charged to customers’ mobile bill (or deducted from your prepaid balance) with the same inclusions and rates as your Optus mobile plan.
WiFi Talk can also be used with any broadband providers WiFi internet connection, with a minimum recommended WiFi connection speed of 100Kb per second.
Amanda Hutton, Optus Vice President of Customer Experience and Delivery said: “Optus is focused on giving our customers the best possible experience. WiFi Talk is an innovative solution to help customers stay connected easily if mobile coverage is limited indoors, whether at home, in the office, or even in places such as shopping centres.
“The app is simple and easy to use. Unlike traditional WiFi calling applications, it uses your existing Optus mobile number when people call or text you, and they don’t need the app or have to do anything differently.”
“WiFi Talk is a simple way for Optus customers to stay connected where they have access to a WiFi connection. This is the first of many exciting developments for Optus in the WiFi calling space,” Hutton said.
Optus said that when customers used WiFi Talk, only data from their WiFi connection was used: “The amount of data used is relatively small. As a rough guide, when the app is making or receiving a call, WiFi Talk can use approximately 300kB per minute, when the handset is in idle/standby mode (open and running in the background) and does not receive or make any calls it uses approximately 80kB per hour.”
I note that Optus is still charging customers for phone calls and SMS messages made using the Wi-Fi Talk app, depsite the fact that its mobile network will not be used — in fact, these calls and SMS messages may, in the first instance, travel over a fixed broadband connection provided by a rival provider.
With this in mind, it seems clear that this is a solution aimed at dealing with Optus coverage problems, rather than seeking to help customers cut costs. Given this, I am a little ambivalent about the app. It’s nice that Optus gives customers this flexibility. And I do understand that calls and SMS messages are charged to the parties that send them — this means Optus would find it hard not to charge its customers for those services, even if they initially travel over other providers’ networks.
I guess what I would have liked to see here is also a small price cut on the part of Optus for calls made and SMS messages sent using this app. That would go some way towards recognising that someone has to pay for the broadband connection the app will use, even if it’s not Optus itself.
Image credit: Optus