Optus customers get Wi-Fi calling and SMS on iOS, Android app

Optus customers will be able to use a new app to make and receive calls and SMSes over Wi-Fi via their existing phone number.

Australian telecommunications company Optus has launched an app enabling its customers to make and receive calls and texts to landline and mobile numbers globally via a Wi-Fi connection.

The "WiFi Talk" app, announced on Tuesday, is an alternative to such VoIP apps as Viber, Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime, with the advantage of using a customer's existing phone number.

"WiFi Talk is an innovative solution to help customers stay connected easily if mobile coverage is limited indoors, whether at home, in the office, or even in places such as shopping centres," said Amanda Hutton, VP of customer experience and delivery for Optus.

"Unlike traditional Wi-Fi calling applications, it uses your existing Optus mobile number when people call or text you, and they don't need the app or have to do anything differently."

Optus is advertising the app as a way for customers to circumvent a lack of mobile coverage, particularly indoors, while still using their current phone number. Calls and texts made over Wi-Fi still count towards prepaid credit and post-paid plans, however.

"They don't get charged any extra; calls and texts are just part of their normal plans," said Hutton.

Optus first announced its intention to offer Wi-Fi calls and texts in early May this year, confirming that an app was incoming.

The news comes off the back of Optus last week announcing plans to shut down its 2G network from April 2017 to shift its customers onto the 3G and 4G networks.

"Greater smartphone usage and advances in 4G technology are driving customer preferences for more mobile data and faster speeds, and there has been a steady decline in 2G traffic and customers in the last few years," said Dennis Wong, acting managing director for Optus Networks.

The transition from traditional calling to the use of data over 4G and Wi-Fi marks a trend in the increasing popularity of communications apps including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, spurring Optus' entry to the market through the Wi-Fi calling app.

"I think you've seen us starting to move away from being very mobile focused to one that is about integrating communications and entertainment for customers, regardless of where they are," Optus CEO Allen Lew said in April.

Vodafone is reportedly in negotiations with Apple over offering Wi-Fi calling to its customers, but incumbent telco Telstra has not announced any similar plans.

Optus has yet to report its results for the first half of 2015; however, in May, it reported adding 42,000 net new customers in the first three months of the year.

The WiFi Talk app is free on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, with devices running Android version 4.0 and above, or iOS 6 and above being compatible.

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