Now that the tariff wars seem to be slowing down, the focus of the mobile service providers in India seems to be shifting to quality of service and the technology enhancements that allow it. Airtel recently rolled out a feature called Wi-Fi Calling for its postpaid and prepaid mobile users. The idea is to improve the call quality when you are indoors where mobile network coverage may be spotty, and also reduce the load on the network at the same time by shifting some of the calling load to the Airtel Broadband network. As a user, you simply need to make a voice call from your phone as you always have, and the phone will detect if the network coverage is not optimal and switch the calls to the broadband network your phone may be connected to at the time. As a user, you will not know the difference, except that calls will probably be clearer and lesser chances of drops. However, this feature only works with certain phones right now.
At present, the Apple iPhones that work with Airtel Wi-Fi Calling include the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11, iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus and the iPhone SE. The OnePlus 7, the OnePlus 7 Pro, the OnePlus 7T, OnePlus 7T Pro, OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T are also compatible with the Airtel Wi-Fi Calling. If you have a Xiaomi phone, the Redmi K20, the Redmi K20 Pro and the Poco F1 are three phones that work with Airtel Wi-Fi Calling—and we expect more Redmi phones will be added to this list soon. At present, the Samsung Galaxy J6, the Galaxy On 6, the Galaxy M30s and Galaxy A10s are also compatible with the Airtel Wi-Fi Calling.
Airtel insists that any calls made using the Wi-Fi Calling feature remain free of charge, much like the voice calls on the mobile network.
To get Wi-Fi calling to work for you indoors, at home and at work, what you need is an Airtel mobile connection—prepaid or postpaid, doesn’t matter really. What also doesn't matter is which postpaid plan or prepaid recharge tariff package you are subscribed to at the time. Along with that, you must have a smartphone from the list above, which is capable of handling the Wi-Fi calling switching. Airtel says you must update to the latest software for your phone. For Android users, head to Settings and check for the software update for Android on your phone—this option is either in the About menu or somewhere in the main list of options, depending on which Android phone you are using. Apple iPhone users must head to Settings -> General -> About and check for the software update. Once this is done, you must restart your phone (chances are, the software update process will do that for you) and head to the mobile network or mobile data settings on the Android phone and Settings -> Cellular on the iPhone. Here, you need to enable VoLTE and the Wi-Fi Calling options.
One important ingredient for the Airtel Wi-Fi Calling to work is that you must have an Airtel Broadband connection, known as Airtel Xstream broadband, for the switch of voice calls from the Airtel mobile network to the Wi-Fi network. The Airtel Xstream broadband plans start at Rs 799 per month and depending on the service in your area, you have the option of signing up for speeds up to 1Gbps.
So, what exactly is VoWiFi? “VoWi-Fi simply stands for voice over Wi-Fi. VoWi-Fi is a complementary technology to VoLTE and utilises IMS technology to provide a packet voice service that is delivered over IP via a Wi-Fi network,” is how trade body GSM Association describes VoWiFi. For this, you need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network at the time (it doesn’t matter what Wi-Fi, as long as there is a Wi-Fi that doesn’t have a firewall blocking the calls) and a smartphone that supports network generated voice calls to be switched to Wi-Fi and back. What this means to you, as a user, is that you will be able to make a regular voice call from your smartphone, even if the mobile network coverage at that location is spotty, fluctuating or non-existent, and as long as you are connected to Wi-Fi. This could just be the ideal solution for a couple of problems that mobile service providers are facing—the issue of network congestion which leads to failed calls and call drops, as well as allow mobile service providers to take on platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger, which allow free calls over Wi-Fi (and mobile data) to users.