Virgin Media customers who want to eke out their mobile minutes will be able to tap into their home phone plan to make smartphone calls, using a new app launching early next year.
The company plans to release a SmartCall app for iPhone and Android that makes calls using landline minutes, as long as the handset is connected to a Wi-Fi network.
"The intuitive app will automatically detect whether a SmartCall is possible and whether that call is included in their home phone talk plan," Virgin said in its announcement on Tuesday.
People can use the app to make calls from abroad as well as within the UK, in a similar way to Skype. The app can be used on smartphones on any mobile network, and not just Virgin Mobile.
Virgin argues the app could help people avoid roaming costs when calling from overseas, as well as lead to clearer calls in areas with patchy mobile reception. For the company itself, the scheme could prove a way to encourage sign-ups for its home phone service.
The first to get the free app will be "select customers" identified via Virgin's Tickles customer extras programme, who will be able to sign up for SmartCall in the weeks running up to Christmas. The app will then be offered to all customers some time in the first quarter of 2013.
Virgin also said it will soon launch a new landline talk plan that includes unlimited calls to all UK mobiles, but did not say when it would be available.