Indian operator Bharti Airtel has announced that its recently-launched voice over WiFi network service – Airtel WiFi Calling – has passed the one million user mark and that countrywide rollout will be accelerated.
The service, which enables users to make voice calls over any home or public WiFi network at no extra cost, is currently available in more than ten India cities.
Reports suggest that Airtel is engaging with manufacturers to make all popular smartphone models compatible with the service. Over 100 smartphone models across 16 brands are said to be compatible with its WiFi Calling feature.
This announcement is well timed. Rival operator Reliance Jio officially announced its WiFi calling service for Jio customers on a pan-India basis this week. However, Jio's VoWiFi offering is not restricted to its own JioFiber service, while Airtel's works only with Airtel Xstream Fiber.
It’s no surprise perhaps that such a service should enjoy strong take-up in India. VoWiFi addresses problems of insufficient coverage, notably indoors, and is usually free – and easy to access. Of course, these moves may have been inevitable, when free voice calls over WiFi can be made with apps like WhatsApp, hike, and WeChat.
Jio's service is available on Samsung and Apple smartphones, and will soon be available on smartphones from other brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus.