June 09, 2016

Cell C has recently started rolling out its new WiFi calling offering, and they’re making quite a fuss about it. But what does this really mean? Is this a reason to switch to Cell C? We investigate what the deal is with WiFi calling.

What exactly is WiFi calling?

Simply put, WiFi calling is the ability to make calls on your phone, without any additional software, using your WiFi network rather than your cellular network.

In South Africa, the use of WiFi calling will be billed just like a normal voice call off your existing plan (i.e. your use of WiFi calling will deplete any rand value airtime amounts, free minutes or inclusive voice minutes in your contract). If you’ve used up all your airtime, you will be charged standard out-of-bundle call rates for WiFi calling.

You can also send SMSs using WiFi calling as well!

When would WiFi calling benefit me

WiFi calling really becomes useful if:

1) You’re travelling overseas, are connected to WiFi, and want to make or receive local calls to South Africa using your South Africa’s phone number. You also won’t pay crazy expensive roaming rates when doing so (calls are billed as if you’re making a local call in SA).

2) You don’t have great cellphone signal at home (or you live in a basement?), but do have WiFi

So, how is this different from Skype or WhatsApp calling?

The only real difference is that you don’t need a different app to make calls using WiFi calling, where you would need to make calls through the Skype or WhatsApp apps directly. WiFi calling is seamless and is built into your phone’s dialer. It’s also priced differently (especially when compared to WhatsApp which is free).

Also, WIFi calling lets you make calls and receive calls using your existing cellphone number.

Do I need a fast Wi-Fi connection?

The faster your internet connection, the better the connection and quality the call will be. You should ideally have a connection speed with a minimum of 1Mbps. WiFi calling should work on slower speeds but you may sacrifice some call quality in return.

Is Cell C the only one who offers it?

For now, yes, but the other operators will probably jump on board and start offering WiFi calling at some stage in the future. Vodacom also apparently offers this but it is limited to Samsung Galaxy S6 handsets.

What do I need to get started?

Firstly, you’d need a compatible cellphone. Cell C’s offering currently supports many of the latest handsets including the latest iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones (you can see a full list of supported handsets here). Expect other manufacturers to start being added to this list soon as well.

To use the Wi-Fi calling service, Cell C customers need to ensure that a Wi-Fi calling icon appears on the top of their screen when using it.

What’s next?

Over the last year or so, many cellphone manufacturers have started building Voice over LTE (known as VoLTE) functionality into their phones, which allows you to make a phone call over your data (LTE) network in a similar way to how WiFi calling works over WiFi. The next step in this technology is for you to be able to start a call using LTE and then hand it over to your WiFi network, and visa-versa.

Interested in other new cellular technologies? Contact Tariffic to see how you can save money on your company’s cellphone bills using the latest technologies available.

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