MWC 2013: Truphone to extend global mobile network to Wi-Fi hotspots

Truphone+ to bring mobile phone coverage to places without signal, and improve calling experience by combing the company's Sim-based cellular offering and its Truphone App for Wi-Fi

MWC 2013: Truphone to extend global mobile network to Wi-Fi hotspots

Truphone has revealed plans for a new mobile service called Truphone+, which seamlessly integrates the company’s global GSM network with its internet calling application.

While carriers around the world talk about meshing cellular and Wi-Fi networks to handle the need for increased capacity, Truphone will be showcasing its solution at Mobile World Congress 2013.

The company has combined its SIM-based offering, designed to significantly reduce the cost and complexity of international mobile roaming, with its Truphone App – a voice over internet application for a mobile phone that gives users secure Wi-Fi calling at a high quality and reduced cost. 

The combination of these two technologies enables those with no GSM coverage to make and receive calls using Wi-Fi in their homes and offices or in a Wi-Fi hot spot. Truphone+ will seamlessly (a.k.a. invisible to the user) transfer mobile calls between Truphone’s VoIP app and its SIM card. Customers will often benefit from improved call quality. The result is higher quality international calls at significantly lower costs – 30-90% less, or even free.

Truphone + uses ‘intelligent routing’ to automatically choose whether to carry the call over GSM or Wi-FI by making real time measurement of signal quality. The user needs only to ‘press call’ to make a secure connection over the highest quality link available. 

The solution features an elegant user interface designed to streamline the user experience, so Truphone+ puts more control in the hands of the user. A call cost indicator displays the precise per-minute cost, so the user can decide when and where they want to make a call, thereby eliminating bill shock.

Speaking at the UKTI’s Smart-UK event on Friday 8 February 2013, James Tagg, Chief Technology Officer at Truphone (pictured), said: ‘In the last ten years, companies have focused on mobile apps, but neglected the phone itself. Truphone+ makes the smartphone a better phone. There’s been a lot of talk about integrating cellular and Wi-Fi networks. Today we are showcasing our vision of the future, giving customers a better calling experience and improving coverage and quality.’ 

This new service is an evolution of Truphone’s existing proposition, which currently works in over 220 countries and is available as a local service in the UK, USA and Australia. Additional local services will be introduced in the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Poland, Germany and Spain in the next 12 months.

Truphone offers customers a single device and SIM card, and enables them to enjoy a local number in all Truphone countries. This allows them to access voice, data and SMS services at local rates. It also means their friends, family and business contacts can keep in touch wherever they are in the world by simply making a local call, thus eliminating high international charges.    

Truphone+ is fully compatible with leading unlocked smartphone and tablet operating systems, including Apple iOS, Google Android and BlackBerry 10. 

Apps v embedded solutions

Speaking to Wireless, Tagg said: ‘There is a lot of debate on whether to go for an over the top (OTT) style play or an embedded style play. But because we are a mobile operator we are not worried about OTT solutions – in effect by using our own app on our network we are over our own top.

‘There are benefits to using an app as an interface; you can upgrade is quickly, which you can’t do if the feature is embedded in the phone’s operating system,' he continued. 'Yes, if it is embedded you get access to parts of the phone an app can’t. But then again, you can usually grant yourself access to those parts of the phone if you are the operator.’

Tagg said that one of the difficulties of combining Wi-Fi and GSM services into a seamless offering is the way they are billed. ‘Wi-Fi is usually sold as an hour of allotted time. Cellular is sold by the minute or second of talk time, so if you buy a day of data, how do you accommodate the two different approaches?’

Two possible solutions are to either bundle up Wi-Fi into the customer’s monthly tariff, or to charge the way the industry buys Wi-Fi and sell it all by the second. However, Tagg points out that Wi-Fi is designed to give an instant session, but it is not designed for fast user authentification. ‘So, it might be a deep technical issue that needs to be solved here by 3GPP or the Hotspot 2.0 concept [seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular].’

Tagg continued: ‘No one has really done what we’ve done in combining OTT apps and fundamental services. We don’t know what the ideal user experience will be, but the nice thing about the OTT play is that you can bring in new players and ideas very quickly. But if you use the embedded device route that might mean working with the cloud or someone like BT. Social media style offerings are very easy in app land, but they are not so easy in Hotspot 2.0.’

Truphone will be in Hall 7, Stand 7E100 at Mobile World Congress (25-28 February 2013).

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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