Hotspot network AlwaysOn, which is owned by Internet Solutions, is taking direct aim at mobile networks with the launch of a Wi-Fi calling offer, the company announced late on Wednesday.
The service is device and platform agnostic and you simply go the website, register and an SMS will be sent 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.
There are several over-the-top (OTT) providers operating in SA. You can make calls on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, and Skype has long offered VOIP, or voice over IP services.
AlwaysOn differentiates itself because it has a Wi-Fi network with 2 200 hotspots in the country located mainly in urban areas.
Carrier grade Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi calling where the device can automatically switch to a Wi-Fi network if the mobile network in unavailable.
Cursory investigations suggest that even a slow 1mbps Wi-Fi connection is sufficient to host a call, but the faster the network, the more likely users will have a better experience.
The AlwaysOn Wi-Fi calling service launches officially on June 8, and the company is offering 60 minutes of free talk time to local mobile networks.