O2, the UK mobile phone operator is trialling a new VoIP service called O2 Connect which would allow customers to make calls over a WiFi connection that would appear to the receiver as if it was from the user’s normal mobile phone number.
Skype is the biggest and best recognised VoIP brand, and with Microsoft’s purchase of the company that position doesn’t look in jeopardy any time soon – and famously offers users free Skype-to-Skype calls. Mobile operator 3 lets customers use Skype for free over its 3G network – but it is still free only to other Skype users when they are logged in to Skype.
This service from O2 appears to almost replace the need for a femtocell for users that struggle to get signal at home – as they will be able to phone out simply through their normal WiFi connection – with calls to landlines and O2 mobiles free for the time being. How users will receive calls through the service is a little more tricky as user’s may need to be connected to the WiFi all the time, which can drain a phone’s battery quite quickly, and they may need to have the O2 Connect iPhone or Android apps open all the time. This is only a trial though – so hopefully O2 will cross these bridges when they come to them.
The trial is starting this month limited to 1000 users, with attendees to the Wired 2011 London event also able to join. It is a product of O2 Labs – the relatively new section of the company focused on building new tools and services for O2 customers. Telefónica, O2’s parent company, has also recently announced Telefónica Digital – a new arm that will focus on growth in digital services with offices in the UK, Silicon Valley (US), Sao Paolo (Brazil), Tel Aviv (Israel), Madrid and Barcelona (Spain).