Could a new local wifi calling platform shake up SA’s mobile industry?

Hotspot network AlwaysOn hopes to change the nature of the local mobile industry with the launch of a wifi calling platform next week

South Africa’s mobile industry is set for a shake-up with the launch of a local wifi calling platform.

The service is device- and platform-agnostic and you simply go to the website, register and an SMS will be sent to you with instructions to activate the service.

“We hope that by providing this service we will enable more people to be connected, which is great for the country,” said AlwaysOn Managing Director Hayden Lamberti.

Calls to AlwaysOn users will be free and calls to fixed line and mobile numbers in SA will be charged at R50 per hour, on a per-second basis, the company said.

Network speed

There are several over-the-top (OTT) providers operating in SA. You can make calls on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, while Skype has long offered VOIP, or voice over IP services.

AlwaysOn differentiates itself because it has a wifi network with 2 200 hotspots in the country located mainly in urban areas.

Carrier grade wifi has had a slow start internationally as operators show some reluctance to allow customers to use the unlicensed spectrum.

In the US, Sprint and T-Mobile provide wifi calling where the device can automatically switch to a wifi network if the mobile network in unavailable.

Cursory investigations suggest that even a slow 1mbps wifi connection is sufficient to host a call, but the faster the network, the more likely users will have a better experience.

The AlwaysOn wifi calling service launches officially on 8 June, and the company is offering 60 minutes of free talk time to local mobile networks.