SingTel to trial VoIP over Wi-Fi

Commercial services are expected later this year, when subscribers will be charged a flat monthly fee for unlimited calls.

SINGAPORE--Local telco SingTel is starting service trials that allow cellphone users to make VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) calls--over the Web--at wireless hotspots.

According to a statement last week, selected SingTel cellphone subscribers will be invited to participate in trials that will enable them to use voice and data services at the carrier's wireless hotspots. The telco supports some 330 Wi-Fi hotspots across the island.

A SingTel spokesperson told ZDNet Asia that subscribers will be charged a flat monthly fee for unlimited local calls after the service is commercialized later this year. He was unable to reveal further details, including when the trial is scheduled to start.

For now, the trial will only work with Nokia's dual-mode phones that support both cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity. The handsets include Nokia E60, Nokia E61 and Nokia N80 Internet Edition.

Dual-mode handsets allow users to make calls over the Web when they are at Wi-Fi hotspots, and switch to a cellular network at other times.

Vicki Brady, SingTel's vice president of consumer marketing, said in the statement that the telco is one of the first operators in the world to work with Nokia to bring VoIP services over Wi-Fi.

Chris Carr, general manager of customer market and operations at Nokia Singapore, said: "Consumers can now experience the power of mobility and benefit from accessing Internet services and calls without being connected to a computer."

Apart from SingTel, other service providers such as Skype are eyeing a piece of the market where Net telephony services are delivered to dual-mode cellphones. Skype is currently working with all major handset makers including Motorola and Nokia, to build GSM/Wi-Fi devices with embedded Skype software.

According to market research company In-Stat, 132 million dual-mode devices will be in use by 2010.