WhatsApp is giving nightmares to Indian telcos. The Facebook-owned messenger has successfully replaced SMSs and even voice calls to a large extent. Not many Indian apps have been successful in challenging WhatsApp.
There already is JioChat, Hike, Viber, WeChat and even Facebook Messenger, and now BSNL has started testing a new Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) to take on the top OTT players in the Indian market.
Voice over Wi-Fi enables users to make outgoing calls even where there is poor cellular connectivity. The VoWi-Fi feature lets you connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot or any standard Wi-Fi network and make outgoing calls to mobile numbers and landlines.
The difference between VoWi-Fi and the calling services provided by other apps like WhatsApp and Telegram is that VoWi-Fi doesn’t need any third party app to be installed. Secondly, in the case of WhatsApp, the recipient has to be connected to the internet to get calls. Last of all, VoWiFi lets you dial outgoing calls right from your phone’s dialer app.
BSNL plans to provide its VoWiFi services in Tier-II and Tier-III cities and other remote parts of India where the network isn’t strong. Slowly company plans to move to other big centres but at the moment the target for BSNL is the areas that do not have adequate mobile connectivity.
Meanwhile, BSNL will get the first movers advantage as other players like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio) have also begun testing VoWi-Fi and could launch the services soon. Last year, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had approved voice calls over a Wi-Fi network to improve connectivity, especially in rural areas.
Currently, making voice calls using apps like WhatsApp are free and calls made using VoWi-Fi services too won’t incur any extra charges. With VoWi-Fi, users will also become less dependent on the telcos for making phone calls. However, there is a slight catch. Users will need a VoLTE and VoWiFi enabled smartphone to take advantage of the technology.