Indian telecom giant Airtel today rolled out voice over WiFi service for its customers in Delhi NCR. It is said to be rolled out across the country gradually. Notably, Airtel also becomes the first telco to introduce WiFi calling service in the country.
The WiFi calling service allows users to a private or a public WiFi network to make outgoing calls to any mobile or landline number across operators. It is aimed to enhance calls in areas with weak cellular signals but stable WiFi connection. It is different from app-based calling from Whatsapp; WiFi Calling connects your voice to your mobile carrier's network using the internet instead of cell towers.
While the calling charges have seen a jump recently, Airtel assures that there will be no extra charge for calls made over 'Airtel WiFi Calling.'
But unfortunately, not all Airtel customers can use the service as you need a smartphone that supports WiFi calling. As of now, there is only a select number of handsets that support the feature in India. Which includes:
- All iPhones launched after iPhone 6s
- Xiaomi Redmi K20, Redmi K20 Pro and POCO F1
- Samsung Galaxy J6, A10s, On6, M30s
- All OnePlus 7-series phones
Here's the catch
Even if you have one of these phones, you might be able to use it as the service is currently compatible only with Airtel Xstream Fiber home broadband. Although the company says it will soon be compatible with all broadband services and WiFi hotspots, we have no estimated timeline.
Additionally, the service will only be reliable until you're within a private WiFi, as even prime markets like Delhi/NCR are not covered, especially if you wish to make a WiFi call using public hotspots.
Airtel's competitor Jio was the first to launch VoLTE in the country, and it has also been testing Vo-WiFi services in circles like Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala. While there's no word on the matter from Jio, we expect to see an official rollout of a similar service from the telco soon as it's testing was in the final stage when we last heard about it.
As for Airtel, it is right now the first telecom operator to announce this service but, the most it has achieved at this point is being the first one to achieve a commercial rollout, we're still waiting to hear about its expansion, compatibility, reach and the exact timeline of the rollout.
Randeep Sekhon, CTO, Bharti Airtel, rightly highlights the benefits of enabling WiFi calling as a telecom operator in his statement. He tells that apart from offering a better call quality in low-signal areas, this technology removes the hassle of increasing the volume of telecom towers in dense localities. If you have good WiFi, you can still make a call to other phone numbers.
We switched to WiFi calling on our iPhone 11 using the Airtel Xstream Fiber connection, but we didn't see the WiFi calling option at the time of writing this article.