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Could wi-fi calling save telcos from WhatsApp?

Consumers may opt for voice if it's on offer.

By Alexander Sword

Wider adoption of wi-fi calling is on the way, according to research from Ericsson ConsumerLab.

The research, entitled ‘Wi-Fi calling finds its voice’, found that twice as many smartphone users make voice calls and send texts indoors than outdoors. However, only 4 in 10 are satisfied with their connectivity indoors and only 3 in 10 with voice call quality, coverage and reliability.

For example, of the US sample, 70 percent of wi-fi callers reported that they were now able to make calls from anywhere in their house. 53 percent claimed that they had substituted use of communication applications for voice calls and 61 percent had increased their voice usage with wi-fi calling.

Another driver for the boost in wi-fi calling adoption was travel. Ericsson found that when abroad, around half of travellers cut down on call usage and 43 percent send fewer texts and number use mobile data sparingly compared to home. Communication apps such as WhatsApp that run on wi-fi were used to cut down voice calls and SMS.

The research found that a third of international travellers were aware of wi-fi calling, and 7 out of 10 found it appealing. 77 percent planned to increase communication using Wi-Fi calling.

Crucially, the report suggested that wi-fi calling might provide a way for telecoms operators to snatch back their market share from WhatsApp and other over-the-top communications apps. 35 percent claimed that they will stop using these apps as a result of Wi-Fi calling.

UK operator Three, which provides a dedicated wi-fi calling app called InTouch, states that over a million customers have used it. EE, which introduced wi-fi calling in April, state that over 4 million WiFi calls were made within the first week and 25,000 people concurrently used the service within 14 hours of it going live.

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The research polled 5000 smartphone users in the UK, US, Brazil, Egypt and Spain who had travelled internationally for either business or leisure.

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