Make phone calls without signal on your smartphone

New Delhi, Oct 25: There is good news for smartphone users. Now very soon you will be able to make phone calls to any mobile or landline number using your home, office or public Wi-Fi — even if you do not have any signal on your smartphone — with telecom regulator Trai giving its nod to internet telephony. The move — opposed by older telecom companies — will be particularly beneficial for making voice calls even when there are no mobile signals in some area or when the conventional network is patchy (which often leads to poor and disturbed call quality.) "The authority is of the view that as per the present licensing framework, internet telephony service can be provided independent of the internet access service. In other words, the internet telephony service is un-tethered from the underlying access (or mobile) network," Trai said in its 'Recommendations on Regulatory framework for Internet Telephony', which have been submitted to the telecom ministry. According to a report in "The Times of India", The regulator has pitched internet calling as a useful and cost-effective alternative for making voice calls. "This will increase the call success rate particularly in indoor poor coverage areas where public internet may be available but signal of a particular telecom company is not available." The move had been opposed by the older telecom players and their body COAI when it was discussed by the regulator as they feared that it would impact voice revenues. The companies said internet telephony, if provided over public network, will "entail huge losses to operators who are providing conventional voice services as there will be a shift of voice traffic... to public internet." The companies said with increased proliferation of smartphones and tablets, the shift in SMS and voice traffic to app-based services has already started affecting their revenues, and this move will add to pressure.

Trai disagrees. "The consumer will have more choice in making calls, and seamless voice connectivity can be accessed by riding over any Wi-Fi network even when mobile signal is not adequate, or is missing," Arvind Kumar, advisor at Trai, said.

To make calls through internet telephony, companies will need to provide an option — like an app — which would allow subscribers to use Wi-Fi before making calls to any of their contacts. Reliance Jio is believed to be one of the front-runners in providing such a framework.

Explaining the process of internet telephony, a Trai official said, "For example, an Airtel customer may decide to use Wi-Fi of MTNL or BSNL when he wants to make a call. Presently, there is no provision for this. But through an internet telephony player, he will now be provided such a facility through an app which he may download on his smartphone and use whenever required. The number of the caller will be same as his original number."

The regulator has suggested that "necessary clarification" may be issued by telecom ministry regarding internet telephony service. "If department of telecom has a different understanding, Trai recommends that it may issue amendment to access service licences so that internet telephony service is untethered from the underlying access network."