Often referred to as South Africa’s third cellular network provider, Cell C has now become the first South African network provider to offer native “Wi-Fi Calling” on enabled handsets connected to the Cell C network. Chief executive officer Jose Dos Santos made the announcement during a media briefing at the network’s Midrand head office this morning.
What this means for Cell C customers is they can make and receive phone calls when connected to a Wifi hotspot, using their minutes or mobile data at the current tariff plan selected.
Calling over Wifi is nothing new – WhatsApp has allowed it for months now – but offering it as an actual service that’s baked right into a handset without being forced to use an app is a first in South Africa.
The technology uses both your mobile network as well as any Wifi network you may be connected to increase coverage when indoors or underground and improve call quality. The service does not mean that calls are free as you will still be charged for calls according to the tariff plan you currently have active. There is also a very small data charge that you incur when making use of the Wi-Fi Calling service.
Chief executive officer of Cell C, Jose Dos Santos explained that the launch of this new technology will turn any Wifi hotspot into a Cell C base station. As a result, making calls when abroad with the service active and a Wifi connection will cost no more than the tariff plan currently active on the handset; receiving calls will also carry no cost.
For Cell C customers to make use of the service they will need a Cell C USIM, a Wi-Fi Calling-enabled handset and be connected to a Wifi network. This service includes unlimited Cell C to Cell C minutes, unlimited text messages and 500 free minutes to any network and will be available as a contract addon package for R199 a month.
The network will begin rollout of the service from the 1st of October with the release of the AG Style handset. Soon after that in November, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will join the party. Negotiations are currently underway with Blackberry, Apple, Microsoft, Sony and LG to bring the technology to supported handsets in the coming months.
The provider will also be launching a combo deal which makes use of the extension of the network’s LTE service. For R899 a month customers will get 40GB of data, a Huawei B315 LTE router and the AG Style smartphone which supports Wi-Fi Calling.
We mentioned the data cost of making calls over Wifi earlier but according to Maria Pienaar, chief information officer at Cell C, this is minimal. “Wi-Fi Calling actually uses very little [data] depending on the codec that is being used. On a voice call for example it could use as little as 1MB at the bottom of the codec spectrum”, she said.
Speaking of the offer in a statement Dos Santos said, “Whether you are in a basement or find yourself in an area with no cellular coverage, Wifi access will enable you to still receive a full mobile experience including voice, USSD self service and SMS.”
Good news for people who like hopping from hotspot to hotspot, then.