3 UK has become the latest UK operator to make use of Wi-Fi networks to help improve the experience of its customers in areas where there is no or poor mobile coverage.
The company said it is launching an app called Three inTouch, which will allow customers to talk and text using a Wi-Fi connection on their usual 3 UK phone number. The app will be available to all 3 UK customers from early August and will be offered free to all contract, SIM-only and Pay As You Go customers.
The move follows EE's announcement last week that it plans to launch Wi-Fi-based voice services later this year, followed by voice over LTE (VoLTE) in 2015. However, EE's planned Wi-Fi calling will be integrated into the primary phone dialler, rather than being a separate app, noted Current Analysis senior analyst Peter Briggs.
"Three InTouch looks like it is a separate app, probably similar in functionality and charging model to Telefónica's TU Go that is also linked to its mobile service plan," added Briggs. However, TU Go is restricted only to pay monthly customers in the UK, whereas Three InTouch is available for prepaid subscribers too.
Briggs also commented that Three InTouch is clearly in beta, which he regards as a sensible approach by the operator.
With regard to the EE approach, Briggs said integrating Wi-Fi calling and SMS into the basic phone functions is another welcome step towards carrier-grade Wi-Fi, automatically using Wi-Fi as a mobile radio-access technology option when and where appropriate.
However, Briggs also noted that promoting Wi-Fi calling is a two-edged sword for operators as it has the effect of drawing attention to their mobile coverage issues.
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