Not content to pipe WiFi throughout the majority of the London Underground, Virgin Media has now launched Virgin Media SmartCall, a new VoIP service that lets anyone with the SmartCall app make voice calls over WiFi.
The service will work on selected iPhones and Android phones wherever there’s a WiFi connection, regardless of network.
The idea is that instead of using network minutes to make calls, minutes will be instead deducted from a Virgin Media phone line call plan. So while Virgin Media SmartCall will work if you’re on O2, Vodafone or Three, you’ll need to have a Virgin Media landline service and plan set up.
Customers with a surplus of minutes on both their mobile contract and Virgin Media plan could save money by switching to a call plan with less minutes. Figures from Ofcom and BT show that use of traditional landlines is in decline, so Virgin’s move to get people using landline minutes again, albeit in a roundabout way, is pretty savvy.
This news comes as Skype begins selling Skype credit top up cards to be used for making calls across its own VoIP platform.
A couple of years ago Orange launched similar services for on BlackBerry (via UMA) and its own-branded Android phones (via Kineto Wireless’ Smart WiFi) which improved indoor reception by connecting to a home WiFi network and routing voice data over a home broadband connection.
While this worked, it also ate into any limited broadband package, meaning while you saved on minutes on your mobile plan you’d pay for it elsewhere unless your broadband service was unlimited.
Virgin Media is also introducing Talk Unlimited Extra (XXL) which for £15/month includes unlimited calls to all UK mobiles. Here’s where SmartCall will really come into it’s own – Talk Unlimited Extra will give you all the chatter time you need and, rather handily, Virgin Media’s recently launched £10 unlimited data plan will give you all the data you need too.
More information on the Virgin Media SmartCall apps as and when we get it – we’re keen to try the service out for ourselves and will go hands-on with it as soon as we’re able.